From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant

From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant

4.8 7
by Alex Gilvarry
     
 

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Unveiling two of America's most illusory realms—high fashion and Homeland Security—Alex Gilvarry's widely acclaimed first novel is the story of designer Boy Hernandez: Filipino immigrant, New York glamour junkie, Guantánamo detainee. Locked away indefinitely and accused of being linked to a terrorist plot, Boy prepares for the tribunal of his

Overview

Unveiling two of America's most illusory realms—high fashion and Homeland Security—Alex Gilvarry's widely acclaimed first novel is the story of designer Boy Hernandez: Filipino immigrant, New York glamour junkie, Guantánamo detainee. Locked away indefinitely and accused of being linked to a terrorist plot, Boy prepares for the tribunal of his life with this intimate confession, a dazzling swirl of soirees, runways, and hipster romance that charts one small man's pursuit of the big American dream—even as the present nightmare of detainment chisels away at his vital wit and chutzpah. From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant is funny, wise, and beguiling, a Kafkaesque tale for our strange times.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Gilvarry’s debut gracefully tackles politically charged subject matter, acknowledging the validity of the terrorist threat as well as the danger of stereotyping and fear-mongering. In 2002, Boyet Hernandez moves from Manila to New York with dreams of becoming a famous fashion designer. Four years later, he almost does just that, earning the name “Fashion Terrorist” after being arrested by Homeland Security and taken to Guantánamo, accused of war crimes that were part of a terrorist plot. As he is relentlessly questioned, Boyet shares the story of his life in—and “unrequited love for”—America, recounting the years leading up to his imprisonment with wit and compassion, curious as to where he went wrong. As an immigrant struggling to make ends meet, he accepted help from gangsters and men on international watch lists. However, he also socialized with the city’s fashion elite, raising the question of how guilty one is by association. Like his idol Coco Chanel (arrested in 1943 for her Nazi ties), Boyet is thrust into a public spectacle of good and evil. An engaging victim of uncertain times, he’s a protagonist who will appeal to readers of all political persuasions. (Jan.)
Booklist
Sharply written and wryly witty, touching on the sensitivities and paranoia of post-9/11 America...Combining a Kafkaesque hero with a captivating "coming to New York" story, Gilvarry's debut is a timely and touching triumph.
Library Journal
Aspiring hopeful Boyet Hernandez just about has it made in the New York fashion world with his (B)oy label when he's detained late one night and taken to Gitmo, where he's accused of terrorist connections. He's also handed a Quran—never mind that Hernandez is an ex-Catholic from Manila. There's some good noise about this debut from Gilvarry, editor of the website Tottenville Review, so pay careful attention.
Kirkus Reviews
A would-be fashion mogul comes to America to pursue the American Dream, only to wind up wearing an orange Gitmo jumpsuit. Gilvarry's debut novel aspires to be an allegory about how immigrant ambition has become stifled in the wake of post-9/11 paranoia. The narrator, Boyet Hernandez, arrives in New York City from the Philippines in 2002, eager to pursue a career in haute couture. But the reader knows immediately that his dreams were dashed: The novel is written in the form of a prison memoir, composed at the suggestion of his jailers as he awaits judgment from a military tribunal for allegedly consorting with terrorists. Chapters begin with observations about the camp's cramped quarters and barely humane regulations, but the story mostly focuses on Boyet (nicknamed Boy) as he makes his slow rise in the fashion world, consorting with models, begging for favors from established designers and hustling for financing. That last effort is what gets him in trouble, because his main patron is a sketchy landlord who possesses a questionable amount of weaponize-able fertilizer. Gilvarry keeps the tone of the story lightly satirical without diminishing the seriousness of Boy's predicament, and he skillfully captures the frenetic world of striving designers and Brooklyn hipsters. The novel's chief flaws have more to do with structure than tone. Characters in the story besides Boy rarely become more than strictly functional (a publicist with the unfortunate name of Ben Laden is a thin signifier of law-enforcement ineptitude), and shifting between Boy's incarceration and Manhattan memories grows repetitive and undramatic until the closing pages. A fashion writer's faux annotations add little, and his afterword closes the book on a melodramatic note that clashes with Boy's character. Gilvarry is a talented writer and observer, but the satirical elements could have been better tailored.
Daniel Asa Rose
The disjunction between Gitmo and Prada is too delicious not to put a sideways smile on your face. You'll also be twisting a lip upward at the Bellowesque brio of Gilvarry's language…In many ways, this novel is a left-handed love letter to America. Whether describing New York's subway system…or the Bronxville campus of Sarah Lawrence …Gilvarry shows that he cherishes a country he clearly feels is at risk.
—The New York Times Book Review
From the Publisher
“Delicious . . . A left-handed love letter to America.”
—Daniel Asa Rose, The New York Times Book Review

“Lively . . . Hilarious . . . [This] whirligig of a book draws some striking parallels between the way we mythologize stars and the way we look at terrorists.”
—John Freeman, The Boston Globe

“It's rare for a novel to tread so fearlessly into the political and yet to emerge so deeply funny and humane. Gilvarry is a young talent on the rise. Watch him gallop through the mess we’ve made of our civilization with style and panache.”
Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story and Absurdistan

“The deepest intelligence is poetic, incisive and inordinately funny. Heads up, folks. Alex Gilvarry just walked through the door.”
Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin and Zoli

“Finally, a young American novelist who has the guts to confront the absurdity of the last decade. Gilvarry has given us a sly, hilarious, and wickedly insightful book about living in the United States (or trying to live in the U.S.) in the aftermath of September 11th. Fashion, terrorism, New York and Guantanamo Bay: in the hands of Gilvarry, hilarity ensues. A brilliant debut.”
Michael Hastings, author of The Operators

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670023196
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
01/05/2012
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Michael Hastings
Finally, a young American novelist who has the guts to confront the absurdity of the last decade. Gilvarry has given us a sly, hilarious, and wickedly insightful book about living in the United States (or trying to live in the U.S.) in the aftermath of September 11th. Fashion, terrorism, New York and Guantanamo Bay: in the hands of Gilvarry, hilarity ensues. A brilliant debut. (Michael Hastings, author of "The Runaway General" (Rolling Stone) and The Operators)
Brock Clarke
One of the best celebrations and condemnations of American fear and ambition since Bellow's Augie March was doing the celebrating and condemning. (Brock Clarke, author of Exley and An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England)
From the Publisher
“A poignant reminder of what contemporary fiction ought to be. You will laugh, but you’ll do so nervously, sitting at the edge of your seat.” —Ana Grouverman, The Rumpus

Colum McCann
The deepest intelligence is poetic, incisive and inordinately funny. Heads up, folks. Alex Gilvarry just walked through the door. (Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin and Zoli)
David Bezmozgis
This is a sly, witty novel. You'll be quoting lines from it to your friends. (David Bezmozgis, author The Free World)
Gary Shteyngart
It's rare for a novel to tread so fearlessly into the political and yet to emerge so deeply funny and humane. Gilvarry is a young talent on the rise. Watch him gallop through the mess we've made of our civilization with style and panache. (Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story and Absurdistan)

Meet the Author

Alex Gilvarry is the founding editor of the website Tottenville Review; he has been named a Norman Mailer Fellow; and he has contributed writing to the Paris Review, Vogue, and NPR's All Things Considered. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant: A Novel 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
sandiek More than 1 year ago
Prepare to be charmed. From the moment, Boyet Hernandez hits New York City from his native Philippines in 2002, his exuberance and talent starts to propel him to the top of the fashion world. He comes with nothing but determination to make it in the only world he cares about. Several years later, he has his own line (B)oy, magazine spreads and an American girlfriend. He has it all, or so it seems, until the knock comes in the middle of the night and he is hustled off to a military prison. His crime? Fashion terrorist. It seems that his main financial backer, a Canadian Muslim who believed in him and invested the money to get Boy his start, has been arrested as a smuggler with terrorist ties, and a stash of enough fertilizer to make many bombs. There is the Indian gangster who tries to blackmail Boy--pay up or he will turn Boy in as a known associate of the smuggler. His American girlfriend turns their love affair into an off-Broadway play about falling in love with a terrorist. Even his publicist is a mark against him. An Irishman whose family changed their name from McLaden to Laden to escape the prejudice against the Irish a century ago, Ben Laden has come full circle and this gay Irish man has lost most of his customers who don't want to be associated with someone whose name sounds so much like Bin Laden. A travesty of justice, no doubt. Boy is left in a prison cell under isolation, his only human contact guards and interrogators. But then, but then. Under the torrent of Boy's words, his exuberant explanation for everything, a worm of doubt starts to build in the reader's minds. Is he as innocent as it seems, or is there a kernel of truth to be uncovered? Alex Gilvarry has created a memorable character in Boy. His exploration of the immigrant mind and the New York fashion scene is fascinating. Readers will walk away from the experience of reading From The Memoirs Of A Non-Enemy Combatant with many questions about what is correct when a country is dealing with terrorism and to what lengths we are willing to go to protect ourselves. This book is recommended for readers interested in fresh writing, great characters and writing that makes them question their positions.
ChrisParkhurst More than 1 year ago
Alex Gilvarry nails the wistful optimism of his hero, who sees America as the best of all possible worlds even as he ends up detained by Homeland Security. Boy's dreams of fashion stardom and his naive misunderstanding of what's going on around him remind me of Voltaire's feckless hero Candide. The political and social satire are both very funny and very pointed. A society that spends billions of dollars to keep us safe from people like this 5'1" fashion designer needs to be satirized, and Gilvarry does so superbly. The society's obsession with fashion and celebrity are very well done, too. This is highly entertaining, and also very serious- what are we thinking? I'm telling everyone to read it and discuss amongst themselves.
SirReads-A-Lot212 More than 1 year ago
Simply stated, this is a fantastic book. Not only is it an incredible page-turner, well-researched, and well-written, but it also balances two really exciting and two really hard-to-come-by qualities in a novel: gravity and humor. Well done, Alex Gilvarry! You've mastered the art. You will laugh and you will cry and you will not forget this book. I'm recommending it to everyone I know. FIVE STARS.
Sara_Nelson More than 1 year ago
FROM THE MEMOIRS OF A NON-ENEMY COMBATANT follows its protagonist as he chases the American Dream and in the process, finds himself trapped in a nightmare. Among the best "post 9/11" novels out there, Gilvarry's debut not only tells a compelling story, but also confronts the events of that day and their subsequent fallout with what can only be called virtuosity. You'll find yourself asking, "How did he do that?" Despite its bleak circumstances, there's a joyful tone to the book--it's very, very funny--and in this joy and humor the novel finds its deepest wisdom. With the confident tone of a master satirist, Gilvarry's debut takes some of the darkest moments in our recent history, and sheds a new light on them with his savvy wit and raw intelligence.
Bookie-Wookie More than 1 year ago
No small thing - this is one of the funniest novels I've read in years. It's also a sad, beautifully crafted, weirdly relevant, and thoroughly original like no other recent book, reminiscent of Gary Shteyngart, Max Frisch, and Saul Bellow. Gilvarry deftly walks the line of high satire, somehow skewering the fashion industry even while celebrating it. And more, Gilvarry drops his protagonist, Boy, into an utterly absurd situation, but in doing so shows us not only Boy's humanity but our own. Fashion, terrorism, funny, smart - a tour de force debut. Can't wait for book two.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an example of an author who can carefully balance humor and gravitas. The absurdity of the novel reflects the absurdity of what's happening all around us, and couldn't be timelier. Even more than that, it's a good story and excellent literature and I can't recommend it enough.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Didn't see this one coming. The story moves along quite well even with all the back tracking. I'm glad I read it.