The first book I read was Deb Olin Unferth’s Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War (Henry Holt, 2011). Unferth left university after one year to find a revolution in Central America with her boyfriend, a fellow-American. She was 18 and spoke Spanish, George was 22 and didn’t.
The year was 1987; it wasn’t the Love Boat.
I loved reading about the contrasts between El Salvador and Nicaragua. The first was desperately poor and gringo-free while the second was trendy in a Che Guevara-tourist-kitschy kind of way. She called the folks who flocked to Nicaragua the Internacionalistas. They fought (mostly in just an ideological way) for the people by day and chilled out with cool beer in a/c rooms by night.
But Unferth and George had little cash. When they ran out, which happened often, George called his mother from a phone in the post office (this is well before credit cards, debit cards, ATMs, e-mail, cell phones, or even fax machines) and mysteriously the money would appear at their next destination.
Unferth proudly claims that travel back in the 80s was a heck of a lot more difficult than it is today, no matter the destination. Ain’t that the truth.
Revolution doesn’t follow a chronological timeline, but still works very well. Even though we know what happens at the end, she keeps the reader waiting for the next mishap (spiders and GI upsets to name a couple). Unferth nicely weaves in her backstory and the political background of each country they visited without weighing the book down.
Viva la Revolution.