This was probably the most detailed account of a slow, meticulous dehumanization that I've ever read. Arenas details his youth, socio-political background, and awareness of his sexuality during the tumultuous politics of Revolutionary Cuba, and leaves no stone of his experiences unturned.
Having taken many classes for my anthropology major dealing with issues of culture/human rights, I still wasn't adequately prepared for Arenas' experience. I can't believe that someone went through all of that and kept on, had the power to lecture and write once free of Cuba. Beware, though. This book isn't for the faint of heart. It can be rude, crude, and explicit. Arenas leaves nothing to the imagination. Understand that a generation of open minded youth had so many freedoms taken away, and lashed out for a sense of joy and truth wherever they could get it.
Books like this bring to the forefront the sad state of the American educational system; as a child, most of what my generation was taught and exposed to was from the American perspective (at least until college, of course). Seeing the Communist Revolution in Cuba as Arenas tells it shows how little understood these issues really are. Countries like Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Argentina, and Mexico have undergone such turbulent political forces in the past century, that have systematically torn to shreds every small piece of humanity people could hold onto. This memoir shows us how ill-informed we can be and reminds us why human rights world wide still have a hell of a fight ahead of them.
Before Night Falls, Reinaldo Arenas