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Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  347 Ratings  ·  79 Reviews
Rising literary star Deb Olin Unferth offers a new twist on the coming-of-age memoir in this utterly unique and captivating story of the year she ran away from college with her Christian boyfriend and followed him to Nicaragua to join the Sandinistas.
Despite their earnest commitment to a myriad of revolutionary causes and to each other, the couple find themselves unwanted
ebook, 224 pages
Published February 1st 2011 by Henry Holt and Co. (first published January 22nd 2011)
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I LOVE Deb Olin Unferth. I want this book RIGHT NOW.


OMIGOD THE BOOK GODS ANSWERED ME. I won the GR giveaway for this, holy shit!!!


This review was originally written for CCLaP, and the book was also on my CCLaP best-of-2011 list

"Nineteen eighty-seven is the year I did nothing. The year I fought in no war, contributed to no cause, didn't get shot, jailed, or inured. We didn't starve, didn't die, didn't save anyone either. Didn't change anyone's mind for the better, or the worse. We had absol
Aug 06, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like this book. Really, I did. When I first read about it, I could see myself in the author's shoes: if I was 20-something 20 years ago, I could see myself doing what she did, running off to Central America to bear witness to the conflicts that were raging there between leftist guerrillas and right-wing governments propped up by the United States without a real understanding of the gravity of the conflict. I liked the idea that Unferth was turning a critical lens on herself as a youn ...more
Sherrie Miranda
Mar 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Sherrie Miranda gives 5.0 out of 5 stars & says "Civil Wars And Revolutions Are Not All They're Cracked Up To Be!" February 28, 2016
This review is for: Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the Sandinistas (Paperback)
Although I agree with the criticism some have given this book, I also think that's what makes this memoir so fascinating. Unferth and her boyfriend had no idea what they were getting themselves into!
I totally relate to this book and had similar ideas of my own to
Jamie Bradway
I'm wavering between 3 and 4 for Revolution. This is the second time I have to say that Unferth is a great writer - her pacing, her voice, her spare originality - but she skimps on plot and characterization. This might not be as fair a charge against a memoir, but she kind of left me dog-paddling about in a vast sea of nicely constructed sentences for the middle third of the book. It could be that this feeling was intentional, a mirroring of Deb and George's meanderings, but it's also a good way ...more
Stephanie Baker Opperman
The time and place of this book is compelling (1987 during the increasing struggle between revolution and dictatorship in Central and South America), but the biographical aspect was completely uninspiring. While I hoped to read about the affect of revolutionary momentum on an idealistic American girl who hoped to be part of the change, instead I found a whiny account of an eighteen year old dealing with boyfriend troubles and diarrhea. Written in her adult life, the author still shows no sign of ...more
Frederic  Germay
Feb 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition has this neat little ditty you can sign up for called Letters in the Mail. A couple times every month, you'll get letters containing personal stories and/or anecdotes from various authors and writers. Occasionally, a return address will be listed should one elect to reply. For several months, I enjoyed these letters but never really felt compelled to reply. Finally, one letter came along that personally touched me. I can't even remember what it was about, but it was the first lette ...more
Feb 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When Deb Olin Unferth was 18, she fell in love with George, a fellow student, who was rather rebellious, and bit strange. Being in love, it seemed young Deb would do anything for her boyfriend. She changed her religion from Jewish to Christian, to her family’s dismay, and followed George on his journey to ‘foment’ the revolution in Central America.

The naiveté of youth leads Deb to somewhere she is totally unprepared for, and the often treacherous journey to Nicaragua leaves an impression on her
Feb 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Last year, I read Unferth's first novel Vacation, which I thought featured fantastic writing but left me feeling a little flat on the characters and story. This book, even though it's non-fiction, takes basically everything I loved about her novel and adds some emotional depth that was sorely needed. I don't know, maybe it's just easier to add emotion when you're writing about your own experiences, but I also think that the detached tone of Vacation was intentional, and I'm glad to see that it's ...more
Danny Fritz
Dec 16, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was hard to finish. The writing is just so bad.

At one point, there was a page without a single period on it. There was no congruence of stories. And after finishing it, it is hard to tell what happened in it at all.

I'm not positive what "the revolution" she always spoke of was. I'm not positive what they did at all in Central America in fact. She spends a great deal talking about her boyfriend George. She also goes a great deal into stalking George. All stuff that is horribly uninteres
This book is less a memoir about being in Central America during the 1980s and more about the author remembering being a 19 year old in a bad relationship while in Central America during the 1980s. I doubt many people remember their 19 year old selves fondly and this definitely comes through. An interesting book, but the two main characters are pretty annoying, again probably because the author doesn't remember them fondly. I really enjoyed the last quarter of the book when she begins discussing ...more
Jun 08, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 100-in-2011
2011 Book 66/100

I would give this a 3.5 stars if that were possible, if only for the paragraph on page 107 that begins "I took my dress off and walked around in my underwear." and that asserts "My coming of age story, if I had one, would be right here. It didn't involve a loss of innocence or man's inhumanity to man. It was me taking my clothes off and marching in a circle around the room. Somehow I knew - nothing specific, I just knew - I wasn't who I would be. More of me was coming." Which so
Mar 04, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was my work's March 2011 book club selection, since we had been reading a lot of "dark" stuff lately and wanted something more upbeat and comical.

It was funny (at times), but it wasn't what I expected. I thought more of the plot would focus on Unferth's experiences living in war-ridden Central America during the 80s, but that served more as a backdrop to her ruminations about her relationship with her beau at the time.

The book was definitely a quick read--I got through it in just about 4
Janine Darragh
Really.... interesting? I'm not even sure what to say about it. I enjoyed the writing a great deal, and it's a memoir, so I feel like I can't be critical, but.... leaving college to run away with your boyfriend to Central America to look for a revolution to join... I just... nope. I have no words. And I'm left with two burning questions: Did she ever figure out and recover from whatever was causing her big, distended, bloated belly, and, did she ever, EVER get over George? All that said, it was ...more
Kyle Williams
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"We—I and I—stand to one side and regard the girl we were."
Jan 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War by Deb Olin Unferth is a memoir most easily summarized by an excerpt from the book itself:

"My boyfriend and I went to join the revolution.
We couldn’t find the first revolution.
The second revolution hired us on and then let us go.
We went to the other revolutions in the area- there were several- but every one we came to let us hang around for a few weeks but then made us leave.
We ran out of money and at last we came home.
I was eigh
Mar 29, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Deb Olin Unferth’s Revolution: The Year I Fell In Love And Went To Join The War, did a lot of the things that I like to see writing do – particularly in the realm of point of view and character construction. While this is a memoir, it reads more like a novel so I’m going to discuss it as if it were. The point of view we see here is what one of my past instructors called a double I. This means that there are essentially two “speakers” who tell the story: the “I of the now” who heavily moderates ...more
Rebecca H.
Feb 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bio-autobio
I’ve had very good luck with nonfiction so far this year, including Sarah Bakewell’s biography of Montaigne, Joyce Carol Oates’s A Widow’s Story, Janet Malcolm’s Two Lives, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed, and now Deb Olin Unferth’s book Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War. I loved every moment of this all-too-short book (a very fast 200 pages). It’s exactly what a memoir should be: entertaining, thoughtful, smart, funny, self-reflective, and even self-critical, with exact ...more
Revolution is a memoir of the author's year spent tramping around Central America with her boyfriend looking to "foment revolution," as the goodbye letter to her parents put it (+1 for the use of "foment" in this context). It doesn't seem to have gone very well for her (to say nothing of the Central Americans); it starts off funny and ends up grimly funny. They get fired from several "revolution jobs," get sick, get robbed, spend many weeks living in spider-infested hostels, start to question th ...more
Apr 06, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 1987 Deb and her boyfriend George decide that their main ambition was to help the revolution, they had wanted to go to Cuba but didn't know how to get there as it was illegal.

George didn't believe in paying bills, it was a principle with him, corporations were evil and rich, he didn't care about money, possessions, sleep or food....Deb found this attractive and thought he was a genius....thus she followed him around South America even though she hated it -

I saw suddenly that this was all a g
Aug 13, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
So, I really like the way Unferth writes. She definitely has a way with words that is unique, which made this short memoir all the more readable. On the other hand, I didn't learn much of anything about the revolution she "joined" (or, really, didn't) other than her tunnel vision kind of experience with her boyfriend. The whole memoir, really, is less about the experience of the revolution at that time as it is about her young, blind -- some would say stupid -- love and lack of identity other th ...more
Mary (BookHounds)
Picture yourself 18 years old, a freshman in college and on your own for the first time in your life. With your first taste of freedom, you fall for the wrong boy and run off to South America because he thinks it is a good idea. Deb Olin Unferth does exactly this. I kept asking myself, why would anyone do this? Well, Deb answers like a typical unsure 18 year old with this memoir. There are some seriously funny moments in this book, but I was a bit frustrates in a couple of stories where they jus ...more
Jul 23, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
The compelling, if disjointed, memoir of a 17 year old college girl in the 1987 who runs away with her Christian boyfriend to join "the revolution" in several Central American countries. What unfolds is the adventure story you'd expect from a couple of impulsive college students who want to be part of something but pretty much fail at it (they get fired from all their revolution jobs within a couple of weeks). At least they're in good company with all the other revolution tourists, or "Sandalist ...more
Tim Hoiland
Mar 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Over the course of a few visits to Changing Hands (a fantastic independent bookstore in the Phoenix area), I’ve picked up a handful of books, and as it happens, two of them happen to be separate first-person stories of people who moved to Latin America and joined rebel movements. Or tried to, anyway.

The first book was Zapatista Spring: Anatomy of a Rebel Water Project & The Lessons of International Solidarity (AK Press) by an Irish writer named Ramor Ryan, set in Chiapas, southern Mexico. Th
Jan 26, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, first-reads, 2011
The whole time I was reading this book, I was wondering if it could possibly be true. Unfirth and her boyfriend tool around Central America getting sick, playing at being revolutionaries, and mostly just going nowhere. I simply can't imagine leaving behind my family, my life, my education, my ambitions, everything to chase some kind of poorly-defined mirage of revolution.

The writing style is very stream-of-consciousness. It's pretty and melodious, but conversational. After about a quarter of the
Feb 01, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
This is a quick read that is about just what the title suggests. It's mostly light-hearted and often funny but has a deeper vein that emerges as the book goes on and the author talks more about her search to "find" herself.

Quote that I loved from the book:

My boyfriend and I went to join the revolution.
We couldn't find the first revolution.
The second revolution hired us on and then let us go.
We went to the other revolutions in the area--there were several--but every one we came to let us hang aro
Ellen Johnson
Mar 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Reminded me of my early 20s, when I backpacked around Europe on my own for 10 weeks with very little money, and of my mid-twenties, when I worked for the Immigration Service at the Miami airport a couple of years before Unferth went to Central America. She expresses the pathos with a dry wit. both a sad and funny book. Every day at my job I saw people fleeing the violence and oppression that the US was backing in those countries, but we wouldn't allow them political asylum because they weren't f ...more
Dina Reynoso
Aug 08, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
This book was absolute torture to get through. And god, I really really wanted to like this book especially being that this was my main read while traveling to Nicaragua. The author's writing style was so incredibly difficult to follow and her sense of humor was sarcastic and not funny at all. I found the whole experience incredibly annoying and truly forced myself to get to the end. The story had so much potential, I mean, what young progressive revolutionary-minded person wouldn't fantasize ab ...more
Jan 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Unferth captures the innocence and freshness of the idealistic girl who quit college and ran away with her boyfriend to join whichever revolution they could find. Her memoir of spending 1987 in Central America is laugh-out-loud funny on the surface, yet infused with the chaos and turbulence that marked the Sandinistas. Unferth is a gifted writer whose words flow seamlessly. Her droll account is equal parts memoir, travelogue, social, political, cultural context, and coming-of-age.

Although my rev
Jason Boog
Memoir with an impossible-to-describe but perfectly pitched voice, will remind everybody what it is like to be 18-years-old and lost.

Quote: "One morning I looked out the window and a huge tank stood in front of our house. It took up the whole street. So the FMLN ran away and the army moved in. They put a missile launcher in the window and my mother dusted it every day. ‘Mom,’ I said, ‘stop dusting that thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s dusty.’ Still, she dusted. And she tidied. All day she went
Sep 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully rendered memoir. Insightful on the concept of memory, reminding us how little of it there is. And of that little how much of it is wrong. The memories that do remain have to do a lot of work. Author engages with "missing" memories, and with the whole set of experiences surrounding her trip with a boyfriend to find revolution in Central America, in a refreshingly direct and non-judgmental way.

Unferth reveals the details of the journey with stoic prose. Emotions emerge through the cra
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American short-story writer and novelist. She is the author of a collection of stories, Minor Robberies, and a novel, Vacation, both published by McSweeney's.

Her stories have appeared in Harper's, Fence, AGNI and other magazines. She is a frequent contributor to Noon. In 2009 she received a Creative Capital Grant from the Warhol Foundation and was also the recipient of the Cabell First Novelist Aw
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