Serendipity was at play when Thomas Hayden started writing Listen, Yankee in 2013. While charting the tense, decades-long relationship between the United States and Cuba, he speculated that major changes were just around the corner. By the time the book went to publication, his prediction proved correct. A social activist, Hayden’s secondary goal was to “understand the long history of the sixties generation through the prism of the Cuban Revolution and the American response.” He has enthusiastically and optimistically followed US-Cuban relations since the Cuban Revolution began and is unabashedly liberal in his beliefs, a supporter of the New Left.
The book’s title pays homage to the cult classic “Listen, Yankee” published in 1960 by radical sociologist C. Wright Mills. Mills’ book argued that American leaders’ failure to listen to the Cuban revolutionaries laid the foundation of this decades-long struggle, and Hayden continues the argument. In the author’s own words, Hayden’s Listen, Yankee is essentially “two old guys talking.” Hayden was inspired to write the book after hours of discussion with Ricardo Alarcon, a Cuban revolutionary and government official. Hayden and Alarcon lived parallel lives in their respective countries and in 2006 Alarcon invited Hayden to visit him in Havana to talk about the revolution and its aftermath. The book is based on these hours of conversation with the majority of the writing and opinions belonging to Hayden and Alarcon’s thoughts interjected in italics.
Hayden’s primary goal in his straightforward yet leftist history is to show the relationship between these two nations in a different light from the American media. In fact, most of this history will prove foreign to Americans, especially those who have been following along for years. He concludes by saying that his book, “which began as a prediction, can be read as both a history and a prologue,” and now is a better time than ever, with Cuba’s borders opening to American tourists.