Something Fierce by Carmen Aguirre
I feel like I have known Vancouver based playwright and author, Carmen Aguirre, all of my life. I have never met the woman, but after reading her first book, Something Fierce, I feel as though she is an old friend who has just sat down at my kitchen table and filled me in on her secret past.
The book is an autobiography, (a true story told by the author, about her own life.) When Carmen was six years old, she, her mom and dad, and her little sister Ale, were forced to flee their home in Chile and move to Canada. Chile, a country on the west coast of South America was facing a serious and very dangerous political situation. Military General, Augusto Pinochet took over the country and many people, like the Aguirres, had to flee to escape his government’s murderous oppression. Growing up in Vancouver, Carmen and Ale go to school like any other girls and live their lives with their mom and dad who dream of returning to Chile and are secretly working as revolutionaries against Pinochet.
When Carmen is eleven years old, her mom tells her that she, her sister, and her step-father will all be going to live in South America to support the revolution. Leaving her friends, school and lifestyle behind, Carmen spends her teenage years bouncing between countries, hiding out from the police, and dealing with her parents disappearing for days on end. She even falls in love a few times! A typical teenage girl in a very unique environment.
This book is NOT a light read: It is challenging. There is a lot of political history that gets referenced. I had to look a few things up and I have a minor in history! That being said, I learned a lot and I found the story very interesting and never got bored. My heart broke for Carmen and her sister. I couldn’t wrap my head around how parents could believe in a political ideal so much that they would put their kids in harm’s way. I know it happens every day around the world, but reading about the fear of not knowing where your mom is for a week and worrying that she may have been arrested or killed was difficult.
So, to sum up, Carmen Aguirre’s book is a challenge to read, both intellectually and emotionally. That being said, it’s also brilliant, touching and exciting. The language in it can be a little — er — salty, so if bad language offends you, maybe you’ll want to skip this one. If you are up for a challenge though, I highly suggest reading this book. You’ll never forget the characters and their stories.