Reporting on his 1960 visit to Cuba, C Wright Mills did not write a conventional travelogue or journalistic account. He chose to have his book narrated by a composite Cuban revolutionary, and it consists of a series of letters addressed to his North American readers. ‘Most of the words are mine,’ Mills writes in his introduction, ‘– although not all of them; the arguments, the tone, the interpretations, the tang and feel – they are in the main directly Cuban. I have merely organized them – in the most direct and immediate fashion of which I am capable.’
The result is a powerful defence of the revolution, which calls upon its readers in the US to challenge the ‘Yankee imperialism’ that is being pursued in their name and to support this brave experiment that seeks to pursue a middle way between Capitalism (which ‘sacrifices man’) and Communism (which ‘sacrifices the rights of man’) .
The book caused quite a stir at the time and sold close to half a million copies. But it is hardly known today. Listen, Yankee is out of print and has not attracted anything like the critical attention paid to Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place, an equally passionate challenge from the Caribbean that accusingly fingers a similar audience, and with which it might be usefully compared.