I read this memoir about this time last year. Surprisingly, it was the only memoir or biography of a Hispanic woman I’d read until last month. I recently finished My Invented Country by Isabel Allende, (translated by Margaret Sayers Peden) for WIT Month. Coincidentally, Allende and Aguirre are both from Chile and both fled the regime of General Pinochet. Both have some interesting things to say about US involvement in what was going on at that time. I’d like to say our country has learned from its mistakes in Latin America, but I doubt that.
The winner of CBC’s Canada Reads 2012, Something Fierce by Carmen Aguirre, re-issued by Vintage Canada.
Six-year-old Carmen Aguirre fled to Canada with her family following General Augusto Pinochet’s violent 1973 coup in Chile. Five years later, when her mother and stepfather returned to South America as Chilean resistance members, Carmen and her sister went with them, quickly assuming double lives of their own. At 18, Carmen became a militant herself, plunging further into a world of terror, paranoia and euphoria.
Something Fierce takes the reader inside war-ridden Peru, dictator-ruled Bolivia, post-Malvinas Argentina and Pinochet’s Chile in the eventful decade between 1979 and 1989. Dramatic, suspenseful and darkly comic, it is a rare first-hand account of revolutionary life and a passionate argument against forgetting.
Things I loved about it:
- Aguirre doesn’t pull any punches. She describes the different fears that were a part of her life, the way people looked after beatings, and her belief in what she was doing. She relates what happened around her and what she did and that she wasn’t just sitting on the sidelines and hoping that things would get better.
- She just gives her opinion without trying to convince the reader of right and wrong. It isn’t a plea or an argument and she doesn’t justify what she was doing to the reader.
- She just tells you what it was and what she did on account of it, without pretending to be perfect or brave all the time.
- Showing how hard something, especially something like revolution, is hard and it does everyone a disservice when we pretend it can happen in a day or night.
- The epilogue and that she relates what was happening in those countries during the publishing back to the resistance because progress doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
- Aguirre narrated the audiobook herself
It was an interesting look into what was happening in South America in the late part of the twentieth century. It’s definitely not one that we get in the US often.
Add it to Goodreads here.