From the Publisher
"This novel covers crucial historical events that have been too long ignored. Most compelling are the teens' non-reverential narratives about living with a survivor."
"Gringolandia is a strong telling of a dificult subject. It brings the headlines home. One wishes it were about events long ago and far away, instead of continuing in the here and now. Beautifully-drawn characters weave a story with both its horror and redemption, and of a family struggling to find its way back to one another. A stunning achievement."
Deborah Ellis, author of Off to War: Voices of Soldiers' Children
"Beyond everything else, this story is about survival. Miller-Lachmann has written a universal tale so good that I hated to see it end."
Rene Saldaña, Jr. author of The Whole Sky Full of Stars
VOYA - Rachelle Bilz
In 1980, eleven-year-old Daniel Aguilar and his family are awakened in the middle of the night in Santiago, Chile, by Pinochet's soldiers breaking into their home. Forced to tell where her husband is when a soldier holds a gun to Daniel's head, Victoria watches helplessly with her children as Marcelo is brutally beaten and dragged away. In prison, Marcelo tells of horrific torture and abuse. After this riveting opening, the book jumps to 1986, with the Aguilars awaiting Marcelo's arrival in America. A physical and emotional wreck, Marcelo experiences a reunion that is fraught with problems, exacerbated by his alcoholism. Despite his suffering, Marcelo is still a freedom fighter for Chile; he belongs to a committee devoted to the cause, writes articles, and gives lectures. Daniel, almost eighteen, narrates most of this novel and conveys the hardship and heartache of being an immigrant in a one-parent family. Although Daniel perseveres, studying, working, and playing guitar with a band, his younger sister Tina has trouble adapting to her new country. When Marcelo decides to return to Chile, Daniel and his girlfriend Courtney accompany him on the hazardous trip. Through means both devious and dangerous, the trio arrives in Santiago where the teens become perilously involved in a street protest. Heartfelt and strong, with an in-your-face immediacy, this novel is revelatory in its portrayal of repressive regimes, immigrants, and familial relationships. Because of its strong subject matter, this novel would be an excellent choice for older teens and high school curricula. Reviewer: Rachelle Bilz
It's been five years since Daniel's father was imprisoned and tortured by the Pinochet regime. After being exiled, he rejoins Daniel, now seventeen, his sister, and their mom in Madison, Wisconsin. Battling alcohol and pain from years of torture, Papa is consumed with returning to Chile to continue his revolutionary activities. This story chronicles Daniel and his girlfriend Courtney's relationship with Papa, once known as the underground journalist, Nino, as they follow him back to his home country so that he can continue the fight to liberate Chile. Curbstone Press is committed to publishing multicultural young adult novels that focus on issues of social justice. Gringolandia is a journey through the past which offers a stark glimpse into life under a ruthless dictator and his regime. Just as compelling is Miller-Lachmann's depiction of family and friends torn apart and then brought back together by a revolution. Reviewer: Jacqueline Bach
Children's Literature - Jennifer Mitchell
Daniel Aguilar's father Marcelo is ripped from his family during the night because he has been publishing an underground newspaper critical of the government. Daniel's mother takes the children to the United States, where she works to free her husband from his torturers. Six years later, Marcelo is able to return to the family. Daniel's beliefs about right and wrong are challenged as he must face the person that he has become and discover the person his father has become. There are relationship challenges for every member of the family, but Daniel is strengthened by his girlfriend, Courtney. When Marcelo decides to return to Chile, Courtney and Daniel hatch a plan that could enable his father to free other prisonersor get them all killed. This action-packed story is a wonderful work of historical fiction that is a must-have for any library or personal collection. There are several Spanish words and phrases in the book, but they are defined in the glossary. This book would be useful when speaking to teens about boy/girl relationships, difficult decisions, divorce, and general family conflicts that many teens experience. Reviewer: Jennifer Mitchell
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up
This impressive novel opens in 1980 in Santiago, Chile, as young Daniel witnesses the violent arrest of his activist father by Pinochet's secret police. Five years later, Marcelo is released from prison and reunited with his wife and children in Madison, WI (derisively called "Gringolandia"). Years of torture have taken a terrible physical and emotional toll on him. Unable to reconnect with his family, he begins plotting his return to Chile even as he succumbs to alcoholism. Daniel, now 17, struggles to balance his volatile home situation with high school; his girlfriend, Courtney; and hopes of U.S. citizenship. When Courtney begins translating Marcelo's articles into English, her near-obsessive involvement strains her relationship with Daniel. Marcelo eventually returns to Santiago, and the young couple's decision to accompany him has a lasting impact on them both. Miller-Lachmann skillfully incorporates elements of family drama, teen romance, and political thriller into this story of a father and son reknitting themselves into each other's lives. "La Gringa," a section told from Courtney's point of view, illuminates her character without sidetracking the pacing. A prefatory author's note provides valuable historical context, and the glossary of Spanish and Chilean phrases will be useful for readers. This title may need to be booktalked, but it's well worth it. From the stark cover image of an empty pool used to torture victims to the intensely poignant essay that concludes the novel, this is a rare reading experience that both touches the heart and opens the mind.-Amy Pickett, Ridley High School, Folsom, PA
Two adolescents, Daniel Aguilar, a high-school student and rock singer, and his girlfriend, Courtney Larkin, a young, passionate writer, recount through separate narration the painful recovery of Chilean Marcelo Aguilar, Daniel's father, tortured under Pinochet's dictatorship in the 1980s. Both of them will travel with Marcelo through the horrifying memories of his five years of imprisonment as he struggles, physically and mentally and with very limited success, to adjust to his new home, a small apartment in Madison, Wis., and to his now-unknown bilingual and bicultural family. His wife Vicky, a graduate student, sells empanadas to make extra money, while Tina, his brilliant 12-year-old daughter, has her own troubles. How, through Marcelo, Daniel discovers the Chilean that still lives inside him, and how Courtney, "la gringa," teaches Marcelo that the land of gringos is not only the home of those who supported the military coup in his country in 1973 but also a land of human-rights lovers make for riveting reading. This poignant, often surprising and essential novel illuminates too-often ignored political aspects of many South Americans' migration to the United States. (Historical fiction. YA)