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Daniel’s papá, Marcelo, used to play soccer, dance the cueca, and drive his kids to school in a beat-up green taxi—all while publishing an underground newspaper that exposed Chile’s military regime.

After papá’s arrest in 1980, Daniel’s family fled to the United States. Now Daniel has a new life, playing guitar in a rock band and dating Courtney, a minister’s daughter. He hopes to become a US citizen as soon as he turns eighteen.

When Daniel’s ...

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Daniel’s papá, Marcelo, used to play soccer, dance the cueca, and drive his kids to school in a beat-up green taxi—all while publishing an underground newspaper that exposed Chile’s military regime.

After papá’s arrest in 1980, Daniel’s family fled to the United States. Now Daniel has a new life, playing guitar in a rock band and dating Courtney, a minister’s daughter. He hopes to become a US citizen as soon as he turns eighteen.

When Daniel’s father is released and rejoins his family, they see what five years of prison and torture have done to him. Marcelo is partially paralyzed, haunted by nightmares, and bitter about being exiled to “Gringolandia.” Daniel worries that Courtney’s scheme to start a bilingual human rights newspaper will rake up papá’s past and drive him further into alcohol abuse and self-destruction. Daniel dreams of a real father-son relationship, but he may have to give up everything simply to save his papá’s life.

This powerful coming-of-age story portrays an immigrant teen’s struggle to reach his tortured father and find his place in the world.

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Editorial Reviews

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
Jacqueline Bach
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 prisoners—or 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

Kirkus Reviews
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)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781931896498
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/2009
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 779,938
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: HL690L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Lyn Miller-Lachmann is Editor of MultiCultural Review. For Gringolandia, she received a work-in-progress award for a Contemporary Young Adult Novel, given by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. She lives in Albany, New York, where she is active in organizations for peace, human rights, and a sustainable environment.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 31, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A rough, yet beautiful read

    Gringolandia opens with an Author's Note explaining the very real circumstances and events in Chile that lead up to what is experienced by the fictional characters in the book. A short bibliography for further reading is also provided. Usually this kind of thing goes at the end of the story when readers are more likely to be interested in picking up 4-5 books on the topic. I thought it was a weird choice to put the note and bibliography at the beginning...until I started reading. Miller-Lachmann expects a lot of her readers, in a good way. She expects her readers to know what she's talking about without having to step away from the story to explain it, hence the need for the author's note preceeding the story.

    Because, let's be honest, not many Americans know that much about Chile and certainly don't know that much about what it was like to live through the turbulent times Dan and his family live through. I don't read a lot of historical fiction about specific events, but much of the historical fiction published in the States of this type is about very well-known events. Even if the average American reader doesn't know the ins and outs of the actual event, they know the basics. Think about how much historical fiction is set during WWII or the French Revolution, or is about Anastasia Romanova. Gringolandia fills a huge gap. I can't think of any other historical fiction for teen readers about South America, let alone about Chile.

    Even if there were tons of titles about political prisoners under Pinochet, I think that Gringolandia would still stand out. Without repeating events, this story is told from three distinctive points of view: Dan's, his father's, and his girlfriend's. Dan's father, Marcelo, talks about what it was like in prison (and believe me, even the polite version presented here can get graphic), but the strong point in his narrative is his passion for a free Chile. He doesn't regret the actions he took that led to his arrest; he desperately wants to continue that work, regardless of the consequences, now that he's been released. He's also going through some serious PTSD that is tearing his family apart. His perspective is contrasted with Dan's. Dan doesn't really know what his father did (you can't be questioned about what you don't know), and he doesn't understand how his father could put himself and his family at such great risk for a cause. He certainly can't understand why his father doesn't want to just move on and make the best of things. Like his father, Dan has trust issues and a serious flinch in the face of policemen, but without the conviction that helps his father work through these issues. Courtney, Dan's girlfriend, is all fired up about what happened to Marcelo and what is happening in Chile in general, but she is also woefully naive. Courtney breaks through to Marcelo when no one else can by believing whole-heartedly in what he believes in, guided by a simple sense of right and wrong and of fairness.

    There is so much going on in this book along side of so much actually happening. I'm not going to lie, it's intense and not always easy to read. But it is so worth it! Not only will the reader learn about events not often discussed in American history classes, but they'll also get to know some ridiculously complex characters and watch them make impossible choices for themselves and the greater good.

    Book source: Philly Free Library

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Allison Fraclose for

    On October 23, 1980, 12-year-old Daniel Aguilar awoke to a crash and his mother's screams from the living room of his family's apartment in Santiago, Chile. When the young boy got out of bed, soldiers held a gun to his head until his mother told them where his father was hiding.

    For this reason, Daniel always blamed himself for his father's arrest. If not for him, then Marcelo Aguilar, AKA "Nino" and writer for the underground newspaper Justicia, would not have been sent to prison to endure years of torture at the hands of dictator Pinochet's cruel regime.

    Six years later, Daniel and the rest of his family anxiously await his father's release to their new home in Madison, Wisconsin. Now a junior in high school, Daniel has adjusted well to life in the United States, playing guitar with his band and for the church that his girlfriend Courtney's father runs.

    An extensive letter-writing campaign has finally freed Marcelo, who now joins them in exile in "Gringolandia," away from his compatriots who still suffer and die on the streets and in the prisons of Chile. Although Daniel wishes for a close relationship with the hero father he's admired all of these years, he and his family could never have prepared themselves for dealing with the man who bears more scars than his broken body can show.

    As Marcelo wrestles with his own internal conflict and spirals into a pit of self-destruction, Courtney takes it upon herself to rescue him in any way, and makes it her personal mission to bring Marcelo's cause to the ears of anyone who will listen. But, for Daniel, it's not all about his father's cause, and he may end up risking everything just to set things right in his own world.

    This politically charged novel brings a powerful twist of humanity to the stories that most Americans simply read about in the news. The aftermath and reconciliation of Marcelo's horrific experiences feel very real, and the effects that they have on the rest of the novel's characters can be quite unexpected at times, making the reader anxious to learn of the outcome.

    I must note that readers with a weak stomach may find it hard to make it through this book, simply for the descriptions of grisly torture techniques and the resulting physical and emotional scars they leave on their victims.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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