Kirkus Reviews QR Code
LONG TIME GONE by William Lee Brent

LONG TIME GONE

A Black Panther's True-Life Story of His Hijacking and Twenty-Five Years in Cuba

By William Lee Brent

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-8129-2486-X
Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

 Brent's riveting memoirs of his odyssey through memorable times, from a Louisiana sharecropper's shack to exile in Cuba. In June 1969, Brent hijacked a TWA airliner en route from Oakland to New York City and diverted it to Cuba. Appropriately, this event comes almost precisely midpoint in Brent's memoirs, because there are two virtually distinct life stories here. In the first, Brent talks about growing up in poverty in bad neighborhoods where the lure of the street and his own rebellious inclinations led him from school to a life of drugs, drink, and petty crimes; to jail; to a political awakening as a Black Panther; and finally, to a violent shootout with the police. The post-hijacking story is about Brent's life in Cuba, where he fled after the shootout. Brent spent nearly two years in jail as a suspected American agent (falsely accused, he alleges, by Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver) before finally being released to a villa full of fellow hijackers and non-Cuban would-be revolutionaries. Unlike most of his fellow expatriates, Brent slowly integrated himself into Cuban life; now 65, he lives in retirement in Havana. Both stories are told so dispassionately that they could almost have been written by a journalist tapping into Brent's memories, but the narrative's spareness does nothing to detract from its power or fascination. With remarkably little cant, rhetoric, or bitterness, and with a fair amount of criticism of both himself and his revolutionary colleagues, Brent offers an everyman's inside view of growing up poor in black America, of the Black Panthers, and of Cuba. Brent's story reads like a novel concocted to take readers inside the mind of a black revolutionary and revolutionary Cuba; that it is true makes it an important chronicle of our times.