Who Was Che Guevara?

Who Was Che Guevara?
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Release Date
June 04, 2019
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Find out how Che Guevara--a doctor turned communist leader and much more than a face on a T-shirt--ended up paying the ultimate price for his cause.

His very image has become associated with a spirit of rebellion, but Ernesto Guevara--known around the world simply as Che--didn't dream of becoming a revolutionary. Author Ellen Labrecque takes readers on a journey through Che's life starting with his childhood in Argentina, to his travels through South and Central America as a young physician, and ending with his final years as a key player in the Cuban revolution. His legacy--as the author of The Motorcycle Diaries, a champion of the poor, and a force for change in Cuba--is both personal and political.

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Controversial Historical Figure
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Born to a well to do family in Argentina in 1928, Ernesto Guevara was a sickly child, but did well in school. After the death of his grandmother, he became interested in medicine and hoped to help people in his country. When on a motorcyle trip with a friend while in medical school, he saw how bad things were for the rural poor, and tried his best to help others when he could. Seeing leper colonies in particular made him question the help that the government provided to people in need. In school, he met Hilda Gadea, whom he later married, and she introduced him to Communist revolutionaries. This sparked an interest in social justice, especially in Guatemala, where many food companies owned by US companies exploited local workers. He had plans to plot an overthrow, but these were discovered,and he went to Mexico. He decided to pursue being a revolutionary, and got entangled with Fidel Castro's politics in Cuba. After Castro came to power, Guevara, now know as Che, was the Minister of Industry for years. He eventually left that position and went to Bolivia, where he was killed.
Good Points
Also included in this book was interesting information about the famous photograph of Guevara that can still be found on t shirts. Knowing this history was interesting, especially since I had a friend in college who bore a striking resemblance to Guevara during this time period!

It's difficult to write biographies for children of controversial figures, but Labrecque strikes a good balance. She mentions in the beginning that not everyone agreed with Guevara's politics or methods, but also does a good job at showing how, at least in the beginning, Guevara was motivated by his desire to help others. I still struggle to understand Castro's position in Cuba; he certainly did many bad things to many, many people, but he was in power for so long that there must have been some backing for his regime. By focusing on the individual, this Who Was book gives an overview of a problematic but influential figure that doesn't paint him as all good or all evil, which I think is true of most people.

Vegara Little People, Big Dreams, Meltzer's Ordinary People Change the World, and Clinton's She Persisted biography series are all popular with young readers, and biographies are a great way to learn history while focusing on the contribution of individuals.
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