A candid, revealing tale…
Polo spins an engrossing story about a Cuban immigrant boy who comes to live in America after the Cold War in Cuba forces his parents to send him to a foreign land. It is 1959. The armed uprising has overthrown the government of Fulgencio Batista with the revolution’s leader, Fidel Castro, becoming the new ruler of Cuba. Desperate to secure their young son’s future, Marco’s parents send him to live in America with his aunt and uncle. After eight months, the family finally reunites in the States. Devoid of any possession and isolated by language and poverty, Marco’s parents struggle to get by: they work long hours at a factory, taking odd jobs in their spare hours. Marco, not very good in studies struggles to graduate from school and surprises himself as he joins college soon after. The girls come and go in his life as he mulls about choosing a career path. Eager to give back to a country that has given his family financial and social security, Marco decides to join United States Navy. Marco’s parents’ story evokes a profound sense of hope—the immigrants who struggle to find their footing in a foreign nation and will do everything to build a future for their children even if it means facing the insecurities and fears of the American dream. And it’s through Marco’s parents’ story that Polo gives space to the voices of Cuban immigrants—families who have fled their Cuban homes to escape the brutalities of Castro’s regime and make a better life in a country that is not only separated by borders but also by culture, language, and values. The novel is mainly set in America, but the sections set in Cuba affectingly reveal a nation embroiled in the horrible machinations of civil war. The first-person engrossing narrative propels the plot forward, and Marco’s philosophical ruminations about Marxism versus liberal values, social justice, and life in America are infused skillfully into the story. The pacing is measured, the characters vivid, and the novel’s inspiring, heartfelt ending along with Polo’s sharp-eyed focus on issues of immigration, liberation, and class speaks to a bigger truth: hard work, resilience, and perseverance is the key to the great American dream. Despite its slender size, this beautifully constructed novella is a winner. Lovers of literary fiction will be rewarded.
Growing Up American
By Rafael Polo
Pub date March 19, 2019
Price $12.95 (USD) Paperback, $16.72 hardcover, $7.86 Kindle edition