Reviews

Library Journal (starred review): “The Cuban revolution so closely associated with Fidel Castro and Che Guevara also involved those such as Camilo Cienfuegos, Eloy Menoyo, Frank Pais, and Celia Sanchez, all revolutionary heroes in their own right. Sanchez was Castro’s supporter, confidante, and—depending on the source—his lover. In this impressive biography Stout (reference librarian, Fordham Univ. Libs.; Havana: La Habana) utilizes interviews, Cuban archives (to which she was granted special access by Castro himself), letters, and other documents to provide an accurate portrait of Sanchez, who ran the planning organization of the revolution after the death of Pais in 1957. Slight in stature, Sanchez saw combat and was arguably the most influential among Castro’s cadre of revolutionary leaders. Her role during and after the revolution was remarkable, and Stout’s biography tells her story as well as offering insights into other revolutionaries and their contributions. Sanchez’s death from cancer in 1980 shook Castro and all of Cuba but her legacy remains in buildings and projects that bear her name. VERDICT: Highly recommended for readers and scholars of Cuban history.”

Margaret Randall, Women’s Review of Books: “Stout is adept at recreating the lives of obscure people in another culture, with startling intimacy. One of the great gifts of this biography is her ability to recreate scenes with the kind of detail that make the reader feel she is right there, living them alongside Sanchez. And she is as forthcoming with her characters’ contradictions as she is with their undeniable heroism. This book illuminates the full scope of the Cuban revolution, the amazing creativity of its early protagonists, Castro’s brilliance and idiosyncrasies, and the life of a woman who, up until now, has been veiled in shadows. But it goes beyond all this. It draws a detailed picture of what life was like for women in Cuba during the mid-twentieth century and of how courageously—and at the same time naturally—one woman managed to make use of conventional relationships while breaking with all convention. Celia Sanchez was a genius among women and men. Nancy Stout has done a brilliant job of bringing her to life. This is a remarkable biography.”

Toronto Star: “Celia Sanchez played a central role during and after the Cuban Revolution as a senior administrator and one of Castro’s closest confidants. Stout, a Cubanophile, got unparallelled access to the country’s archives (at Fidel’s behest) and interviewed many of Sanchez’s friends and associates.”

Helen Yaffe: “Nancy Stout has treated the reader to an exhilarating biography of Celia Sanchez, recording her vital contribution to the revolutionary struggle and the socialist state in Cuba. This is long overdue. While many supporters of the Cuban Revolution will have heard about Celia and her close relationship with Fidel Castro, few will have understood or appreciated the role she played . . . With the captivating power of a good novel, but based on ten years of archival research and interviews . . . Stout’s attention to detail and her obvious admiration makes this book a must-read.”

Socialism & Democracy: “Long overdue in the catalog of books on the Cuban Revolution, Nancy Stout’s One Day in December has made an important contribution to the study of the guerrilla insurrection and Fidel’s Cuba by presenting Celia Sánchez Manduley as one of the Revolution’s key players. Stout sheds light on and pays well deserved homage to this valiant and fiercely strong-minded Cuban female revolutionary, who remains hardly known outside of Cuba . . . The author’s 10 years of research, including access to restricted and classified archives as well as dozens of interviews with friends, family, and colleagues of Celia, has resulted – finally – in a biography worthy of the woman.”

Green Left Weekly: “One Day in December shows that Sanchez’s greatness was the greatness of thousands. Likewise, it recasts the other leaders in a similar light. Castro’s leadership role is obvious, but he depended on Sanchez and her networks to operate. Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos led famous guerrilla contingents, but they were dependent on the peasants who made up these columns, their guides, and the local underground networks that helped them establish new revolutionary structures as they liberated towns. This is the real strength of One Day in December … a book that should be read for all those who want to truly understand the Cuban revolution.”

Saul Landau, ZNet: “Stout’s exploration of Celia’s life helps readers understand the nature of life in a small provincial town in the 1950s, and how revolutionaries had to hide from Batista’s police and simultaneously manage to integrate their times organizing insurrection with family and love life. . . . Stout used creatively her access to the official archives in Havana, discovering letters to and from Celia, memos from Fidel and notes that fill in details in the life of this remarkable revolutionary.”

Morning Star: “This is an extraordinary biography, charting Sanchez’s involvement from initial organisation of Fidel’s landing to her remarkable transformation of a thorny thicket—marabuzal—into a preliminary training ground for rebel soldiers. From trials to triumph, the final section of the book records her unprecedented archival and architectural projects in her ministerial role . . . this book is an opportunity to meet an elegant, tenacious and resolute woman who remains Cuba’s front-line heroine to this day.”

Human Needs Before Profits: “Nancy Stout spent ten years researching her biography of Celia Sánchez. Reading Stout’s book, we can see why the name Celia Sánchez clearly needs to be added to this list [of important revolutionary leaders]. In this biography we see a woman who overcomes unbelievable odds to put in place a government that transformed the lives of the Cuban people…. Understanding this story, told by Nancy Stout and others, gives us a sense of why the Cuban people loved Celia Sánchez. Her life also demonstrates that there will be more women who are capable of carrying out similar struggles throughout the world.”

Counterfire: “Eminently readable . . . provides a fascinating account of the revolution from the point of view of a close confidant of Castro, who herself was a key leader of the underground networks that did so much to make a relatively marginal rural insurgency into a revolutionary force capable of undermining and destroying the Batista regime. As an account of how this was done, in almost day-to-day logistical terms, from communications to the gathering of support, this is remarkably entertaining as well as informative. In fact the dramatic story Stout has to tell, which is well-paced and written engagingly, makes for a book which could appeal very widely.”

The Spokesman: “What makes One Day in December so interesting [is that] it strongly emphasises the role of the underground, often overshadowed by the guerrilla campaign in the Sierra Maestra. It was difficult and dangerous work, but absolutely vital … if you are at all interested in the Cuban Revolution and its first 20 years up to 1980, when Celia died, it is well worth reading.”

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