Jeanine Cornillot was just two years old when her father, a former Cuban revolutionary turned anti-Castro militant, was sentenced to thirty years in a Florida prison for political bombings. His absence left a single mother to raise four children who kept his incarceration a secret and conjured a mythic father-hero out of his occasional letters.
Jeanine's Irish American mother struggled to support the family in suburban Philadelphia. Summers, she put Jeanine on a plane to Little Havana, where she lived with her Spanish-speaking grandparents and bilingual cousin--a sometimes unreliable translator. It was there in Florida that she met her father face to face, in the prison yards.
As Cornillot travels between these two worlds, a wryly funny and unsentimental narrator emerges. Whether meeting her father for the first time at age six and hoping she looks Cuban enough, imagining herself a girl-revolutionary leading protest marches, dreamily planning her father's homecoming after his prison break, or writing to demand an end to his forty-four-day hunger strike after he's recaptured, young Jeanine maintains a hopeful pragmatism that belies her age.
Eventually, a child's mythology is replaced with an adult's reality in a final reckoning with her father, remarkable for the unsparing honesty on both sides.