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Tuesday, Feb 20, 2024

The Librarian is in

If you’re interested in Fidel Castro’s Cuba of the 1960s, this graphic memoir is the work for you. It covers an era and a culture in which some communist believers willfully exiled themselves to the Caribbean isle to pursue this political ideology. The author is Anna Vetfort and her parents were two of these people who became expatriates there. 

Anna’s fair complexion causes her to stand out among the Cubans and she is subject to sexual harassment. These verbal assaults are injurious and disorienting as she maps out her own queer identity in a place and during a time where being a “tortillera” (a word for “lesbian”) was treated punitively. Veltfort participates in government-sponsored labor camps and pursues studies at the University of Havana where she encounters other students from the LGBT community who must live their lives clandestinely. With photographs and other documents from the era accompanying the narrative, readers get a real sense of the times, the political tensions and the socioeconomic scarcity created by rations and quotas. The text can be a bit heavy for a graphic work, but the educational opportunity is nonetheless rich. 

For more about the figures that shaped Cuba, see Walter Salles’ film “The Motorcycle Diaries” that covers Che Guevara’s life. For another graphic memoir on navigating queer identity, see “My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness” by Kabi Nagata.