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Book Review: Che by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon

Featuring the random electric outlet in my dorm hall
     I'm back with another graphic novel!  And this one isn't about zombies - it's about Ernesto Guevara de la Serna, better known as Che Guevara.  This beautiful, color-illustrated comic book is a biography of the revolutionary figure, from the famous motorcycle trip he took through Argentina partway through medical school, to his success as an Argentinean communist fighting for Fidel Castro in Cuba, to his capture by government soldiers while aiding rebels in Bolivia, and subsequent execution without trial.
     A good fourteen pages of the novel are spent describing in brief the history of every country in South America.  I admit that I found this section boring at first.  But honestly I benefited from it, first of all because in high school I learned very little about South American history.  World Wars I and II got a lot of attention in my history classes, but the revolutions of Latin American countries did not.  So this book gave me a crash course.  Second of all, this summary of South American history made it very clear why Che hated American and European imperialism.  Every country he visited on his motorcycle trip suffered from imperialism or its aftereffects.  For example, Chile's rich copper mines were run by American companies, Panama experienced violent intervention any time the United States' claim on the Panama Canal was contested, and in various countries, a native and mestizo majority was dominated by a minority of European descent. It is no wonder that, after intimately exploring these nations by motorcycle, Che came to loathe the powers that dealt them such obvious injustice.
     The writer acknowledges the controversy surrounding Che, particularly at the very end, but on the whole the book shows him in a positive light.  I found this perspective refreshing because I was raised with the fuzzy notion that Che Guevara was kind of a bad guy.  I picked up this book in the hope of clarifying this fuzzy notion and, sure enough, emerged from reading Che with a more nuanced understanding of his life and legacy. 
     Perhaps because of the limitations of the graphic novel form, Che never delves very deeply into any stage of its subject's life.  This book enlightened me but also left me with more questions.  I am, for example, curious about Che's youth, and in particular the motorcycle road trip that inspired so many of his political beliefs.  Luckily, he wrote a memoir - The Motorcycle Diaries, or Diarios de Motocicleta in Spanish - about that exact period of his life.  Hopefully I will get to read and review it soon :)

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