cover image Worm: A Cuban American Odyssey

Worm: A Cuban American Odyssey

Edel Rodriguez. Metropolitan, $29.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-75397-7

In depicting both Cuba and the United States at their best and worst, Time cover artist Rodriguez’s debut graphic memoir is a stunningly rendered elegy for the dreams of revolutionaries, immigrants, and parents. The story begins with Rodriguez’s birth in 1971 in a small town south of Havana. Scarcity forces Cubans to be resourceful and his father opens a successful photography studio, but not without arousing the suspicion of the Communist Party. Rodriguez’s parents decide to leave when they begin to believe government-run schools are brainwashing children. In 1980, the government agrees to let people leave by boat—but not without stalling, harassing, and calling them “worms.” The family makes it to Miami on a Jamaican shrimp boat. Later, Rodriguez studies art at New York City’s Pratt Institute. In 2016, he recognizes similarities between the rises of Donald Trump and Fidel Castro: “I saw shades of my childhood in Cuba, of the repudiation acts against people considered enemies.” As his art pushes back against totalitarianism and media bias, he counters insults by declaring, “I lost one country. I’m not going to lose another without a fight.” The comics feature strong black line drawings against red and army-green backgrounds, with Trump-related images inserted as a shock of orange and yellow. It’s a bracing warning bell for any reader concerned about the future of American democracy. (Nov.)