Monday, September 7, 2009

Male Monday: Gringolandia

Gringolandia by Lyn Miller-Lachmann 2009

Rating: 4/5

IQ "if you don't care about getting rejected, it means you haven't been putting your heart into writing." Courtney

I'm not a writer, but I think the above quote applies to anything you are passionate about (dance, making movies, acting, being on a sports team, etc.)

One of the things that drew me to this story (besides the fact that I wanted to learn more about Pinochet and Chile) was what life is like after torture. Many fictional books about activists, skip the details of the torture or their characters miraculously escape that fate. Gringolandia offers a very detailed, no-holds barred look not just at what happens to a person after they've been tortured but the effect on family members. Daniel's father (Marcelo) has been imprisoned for six years (arrested in 1980 and released in 1986). Marcelo Aguilar published an underground newspaper that exposed the cruelty of Chile's military government led by Augosto Pinochet. His family moved to Wisconsin shortly after he was imprisoned. In 1986 he is released and now he has to adjust to life after prison and torture, and life in America. Marcelo has become a brooding, bitter, ill-tempered, budding alcoholic. He's partially paralyzed and almost blind in one eye. He has terrible flashbacks. He refuses to learn English because wants to move his whole family back to Chile (his family doesn't understand why he would want to go back to the place that ruined him).

My least favorite character was Courtney, Daniel's white ("gringa) girlfriend. She seemed totally oblivious to the pain that Daniel and his family were going through, only caring about the father. That's partially understandable because the father has been through a lot, but he's also making life for his family very unpleasant. Courtney doesn't think about how her actions will impact others, she just does them, while this can be sweet sometimes, it can also be extremely thoughtless. In the beginning, I found Courtney almost unbearably annoying, but she gets better (she has a story too) although in the end I'm still not a fan of hers.

I didn't love any of the characters, but I liked Daniel the most. Although I honestly think I would have coped with his father being around more like Tina did by avoiding him (Tina was Daniel's sister) than by trying to talk to him. You see Daniel grow as a character, but I don't feel like I really got to know him (his likes, dislikes, etc.).

I'm not a big fan of the cover. It's an image of a bird (a conure I'm guessing, cousin to the parrot) in a pool. The pool was used for el submarino which was a torture technique used in Chile. The technique involved a person being held underwater until they confessed. There may have been a brief mention of this technique in the book, but I barely remember it. The bird doesn't come into the story till the last part and that makes a little more sense. I think if I designed the cover I would have put a newspaper or something else that symbolized the father or other people's fight against the cruel Chile government. As well as a torture symbol that was more actively mentioned in the book. I do love the header, When History Calls Your Name How Will You Answer?

All in all Gringolandia was a good and really interesting read. I just would have liked to gotten to know the characters a little better. High school and up.


  1. Uplifting award for you! Come and get it!

  2. Thanks for reviewing the novel, Ari. The book I'm working on now is Tina's story, three years later--but more about a boy she falls in love with than about her family. Anyway, there is a brief mention of "el submarino" in Chapter 19, when Daniel is talking with Tina.

    Looking forward to the contest. Good luck.

  3. Ari,
    I agree with you about Courtney. I think her presence ruined the story. She was an outsider, yet she was given the upper hand. I really didn't like that.

  4. Great insight Ari. Righ on with the book. I did't like Counrtney either. And the author has gotten a review of how she makes Courtney naive!!! I guess naive is a new name for thoughtless. ha ha
    Jo Ann Hernandez
    BronzeWord Latino Authors
    I'm twitting this for you.

  5. A couple of reviewers felt Courtney was unfairly dismissed as naive in the novel, despite her efforts to help Daniel's family. It's certainly an aspect of the novel that's stirred controversy from different perspectives, which was my intention. I like telling stories from different perspectives--I did it as well in my adult novel. And flawed characters (I would definitely put Courtney in this category) can serve as lessons for readers so they don't make the same mistakes in real life, hurting real people.


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