Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega addressed the UN General Assembly last week, lambasting US "imperialists" on behalf of the "millions of victims of colonialism and neo-colonialism" around the world. The world is accustomed to hearing strong words from Ortega, whose Sandinista National Liberation Front first governed Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990. The first comprehensive account of this tumultuous period to appear was New York Times correspondent Stephen Kinzer's Blood of Brothers: Life and War in Nicaragua, a readable, first-person narrative that chronicled Kinzer's travels through the war-torn Central American nation at a time when its struggles frequently dominated the international spotlight, thanks in no small part to the Reagan administration's covert (and illegal) funnelling of aid to the contras. As the best connected journalist in Central America, Kinzer was able to personally meet and interview people at every level of the Somoza, Sandinista and contra hierarchies, as well as dissidents, heads of state, and countless ordinary citizens throughout the region. Upon the book's initial release, Library Journal called it "an example of public journalism at its best."
Blood of Brothers had been out of print for some time until The David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University released its paperback edition in September, distributed by HUP. Now that the Sandinistas are (partially) back in power, it's a good opportunity to take a look back and see how this whole thing started. There's no better way to do that than with Blood of Brothers in your hand.
NB: Kinzer is also the co-author of the classic Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala, which does for 1950s Guatemala what Blood of Brothers does for 1980s Nicaragua.