It took me a while before writing this review. Gringolandia, written by Lyn Miller-Lachmann and published by Curbstone Press, is not a book you put down easily and sit to write about. At least in my experience. The story stayed with me days after I read the final line.
Gringolandia begins in Chile, in the middle of the night, in 1980. A little boy, Daniel, witnesses the beating and arrest of his father by soldiers. Soon after, he moves to the United States with his mother and sister to start a new life, while his dad is kept captive and tortured.
The story is told from multiple point of views; Daniel’s voice, however, remains the most prominent (much to my delight). Gringolandia is a historical fiction. As such the reader learns about the living conditions in Chile, under General Pinochet’s rule, as well as the political involvement of the USA during that period.
I found Gringolandia great on many levels, and I will explain why I think it is/will be appealing to teenage readers.
First the writing is enticing; the pace and the narrative keeps you reading. I loved Daniel’s voice. I found it raw, a tad rough at times, but always honest: the voice of a teen who needs an answer yesterday. I enjoyed how Daniel looked after his mother and how he unexpectedly, finally, found a way to bond with his little sister, Tina. I felt his frustration when he desperately tried to understand his father, to make sense of the life of a political refugee in a foreign soil. Daniel is depicted torn between the comfort/safety of his new life in Wisconsin and the uneasiness brought up by the political unrest in Chile.
There is an “us” and “them” in the story, a line dividing the Hispanic community involved in provoking a change in Chile and the Gringos, the Americans not fully grasping what is going on there. Having spent a significant amount of his life in the USA, Daniel struggles to find his place in society and to deal with the attention his dad attracts upon his arrival from Chile. Daniel’s challenge is amplified by the painful memories he still has to come to term with.
Overall Gringolandia is a book I warmly recommend, a book teenagers and adults will both enjoy and learn from. I find it instrumental in building a bridge of comprehension between cultures, especially among teenagers exposed to cultural diversity in their classroom. Gringolandia offers a glimpse at the implications and challenges surrounding political refugees, a topic that remains current and is not that often explored in young adult literature.
Disclosure: I bought the book…
About the Author:
Lyn Miller-Lachmann is the editor-in-chief of the MultiCultural Review. She is the award-winning author of the reference book Our Family, Our friends, Our world, and the eco thriller Dirt Cheap, and the editor of Once Upon a Cuento. She lives in Albany, NY, where she co-hosts a weekly radio program of music and Latin America and Spain.
Gringolandia is a 2010 ALA Best Book for Young Adult, and won an Independent Publishers Book Award (IPPY) gold medal in the children’s/Ya multicultural category. Gringolandia is also on the Americas Award List and received an honorable mention! Congratulations to Lyn Miller-Lachmann for these major accomplishments! 🙂
Inspired by Librarian Edi Campbell interview, and as much as I would love to (selfishly) keep my Gringolandia copy, I want even more a high school library to own it, and as many teens as possible to enjoy it. To nominate your favorite, deserving high school, email me at:
nathalie [dot] mvondo [at] yahoo [dot] com, by Thursday 17 of June 2010. The drawing is open to schools in the USA. The winner will be announced on Friday June 18, 2010. I thank you in advance for your participation.
Now. Have you read Gringolandia yet? Does your public library have a copy? If you liked Gringolandia, I suggest also reading Pablo Neruda’s Poems, which denounce Chile’s struggles under Pinochet.
Note: edited 06/09/2010 @ 7:24 AM PST & 8:21 AM PST to add the Americas award! Thanks to one of our favorite librarians, Edi Campbell, for the information.