Che on My Mind

Che on My Mind

Book Pages: 160 Illustrations: 16 photographs Published: September 2013

Activism, Gender and Sexuality, Latin American Studies

Che on My Mind is an impressionistic look at the life, death, and legacy of Che Guevara by the renowned feminist poet and activist Margaret Randall. Recalling an era and this figure, she writes, "I am old enough to remember the world in which [Che] lived. I was part of that world, and it remains a part of me." Randall participated in the Mexican student movement of 1968 and eventually was forced to leave the country. She arrived in Cuba in 1969, less than two years after Che's death, and lived there until 1980. She became friends with several of Che's family members, friends, and compatriots. In Che on My Mind she reflects on his relationships with his family and fellow insurgents, including Fidel Castro. She is deeply admiring of Che's integrity and charisma and frank about what she sees as his strategic errors. Randall concludes by reflecting on the inspiration and lessons that Che's struggles might offer early twenty-first-century social justice activists and freedom fighters.


“Hundreds of books have been written about Che; the facts are documented, the myth celebrated. But with, as she calls it, ‘the intuition of a poet,’ Randall has created something unique – a compelling personal contemplation, an exploration of ‘the intimacy that has stayed with me all these years.’” — Robert Woltman, Albuquerque Journal

“[A] series of reflections that alternately encompass personal reminiscence, biography, political analysis, nuggets of historical information, feminist hindsight and even poetry. . . . As with any good conversation, this book leaves the reader stimulated and enlightened with new questions to ponder.  . . . We are simply listeners, treated to a very rich personal rendition of [Randall’s] own private tune of Che on my mind.” — Sheyla Hirshon, Havana Times

Che On My Mind stands not only as an arresting discussion of an enigmatic historical figure, but also as a testament to Randall’s own ability to fuse the observations of anti-imperialism and feminism into a formidable political and cultural concoction.”
— Nick Witham, LSE Review of Books

“In this book, Randall lends a critical eye, not only to Guevara’s political legacy but to the man as a whole. We get a unique and truly personal take on Guevara’s relationships, integrity, personal struggles and aspirations from a person who has read just about every other book written on “el Che.” So, she decided to write her own.”
— Hakim Bellamy, Local IQ

Che on My Mind is a 160-page tour-de-force in which, with her poetic and visual sensibility, she considers Che Guevara's life and legacy. The slim tome is also a meditation on how her own beliefs on revolution have changed, a prose poem on the vicissitudes of protest, courage, and the tricks of time.”
— Jenny McPhee, Bookslut

“These personal essays on and acute observations of Che Guevara’s legacy achieve insight into his enduring appeal to young revolutionaries.” — Edward Morris, Foreword Reviews

“A well-written, brief reflection on Guevara and his time that will interest historians and social theorists.” — Boyd Childress, Library Journal

"If you have not been thinking about Che, now you will. Our gifted poet, feminist author, and revolutionary thinker has given us a spare and ethical meditation on the lingering life and death of Ernesto Che Guevara. . . . Che on My Mind will invigorate and deepen your own thinking." — Bernardine Dohrn, Monthly Review

"This beautifully written reminiscence is 'the intution of a poet' . . . Such familiarity with Cuba and the guerrillas may not be unique among the innumerable writers on the century's best-known and perhaps most admired guerrillero, but no others have brought such sensitivity to the task." — David Kunzle, The Americas

“If you only read one book about Che Guevara, this is the book that I strongly recommend. . . . Perhaps only a poet could capture the complexities of the life, lives, myth and myths of Che. . . . [I]n the able and creative capacities of Margaret Randall, the many verses of Che's life are woven into an epic poem.” — Budd Hall, Left History

"Both of Randall’s recent books make Cuba come alive. These books are well timed with the restoration of diplomatic relations and the easing of travel restrictions. They convey the vibrant history of revolutionary change. They also give human dimensions to the heroes of that revolution, reminding us what they risked, the losses they suffered, and what they were able to achieve.” — Alice Embree, The Rag Blog

"Che on My Mind is a poetic and public fight. It is a blueprint, in form and content, for the kinds of strategic remembering freedom fighters must engage to best sketch new horizons in the face of enduring systems of domination. With poetic tongue and intellectual rigor, Randall grapples with the vicious contradictions of resistance to pave a way forward for future activists."  — Felicia Bishop Denaud, SX Salon

“Part biography, part memoir, and part philosophical reflection on the relationship between means and ends in political activism, Che on My Mind is a slim yet refreshingly self-reflective (and beautifully assembled) collection of stories, analysis, and memoir. . . . It is a notably thin volume, yet meant to be read—I would think—not in a single sitting but slowly, with ample time to digest and ponder the interweaving of personal history with meditations on an era that is simultaneously growing distant and historical, yet whose connections, via the continued reproduction of Che iconography and the longevity of the Cuban revolution itself, now more place than state of mind, remain ever present.” — Eric Zolov, EIAL

"Thoughtfully exploring the complex and contested record of the life and work of Che Guevara, Margaret Randall—with, as she says, 'the intuition of a poet'—presents a compelling personal meditation on a figure who has inspired legions of people, young and old, throughout the world who seek to struggle for a more just and decent human existence." — Noam Chomsky

"In Che on My Mind, the poet Margaret Randall, who was one of the founders of the influential sixties bilingual journal El Corno Emplumado (The Plumed Horn), assesses Che Guevara's enduring influence while confronting her own doubts and uncertainties over his justification of violence and armed struggle. She asks whether we can admire Guevara's commitment and generosity of spirit and still disagree with war as a strategy. Acknowledging that her own attitudes to Che have changed with age, her book is a frank assessment of Che's failures of judgment as well as of his charisma, and of his contradictory status as both saint and cowboy." — Jean Franco, author of Cruel Modernity


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Margaret Randall, born in New York in 1936, is a feminist poet, writer, photographer, and social activist. After living in Mexico, Cuba, and Nicaragua since the 1960s, she attempted to return to the United States in 1984. Randall had inadvertently lost her U.S. citizenship when she acquired the citizenship of her Mexican husband in 1967. The U.S. government refused to reinstate her citizenship after finding opinions expressed in some of her books to be "against the good order and happiness of the United States." The Center for Constitutional Rights defended Randall, and many writers and others joined in an almost five-year battle for reinstatement of her citizenship. She won her case in 1989. In 1990 she was awarded the Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett grant for writers victimized by political repression. Randall is the author of more than eighty books, including the oral histories Cuban Women Now, Sandino's Daughters, and When I Look into the Mirror and See You: Women, Terror, and Resistance. A documentary, The Unapologetic Life of Margaret Randall, was released in 2001. Randall lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

1. A Death That Leads Us Back to Life 1

2. In Cuba, Where Our Lives Came Together in the Everyday 11

3. Multiple Prisms 19

4. Conflicting Versions 29

5. "Socialism and Man in Cuba" 35

6. Tender Heart and Rigorous Moral Code 43

7. Empowerment of the Erotic 51

8. How the Man Was Made 59

9. Che and Fidel 67

10. Che and Haydée 75

11. Exercising Power, Exercising Solidarity 87

12. The Question without an Answer 95

13. War and Peace 99

14. Revolution and Religion 115

15. Che's Legacy for Today's Activists 125

16. Poetry Closes the Circle and Opens Infinite Circles 133

Notes 139

Bibliography 147
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5592-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5578-6
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