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In My Colombian War, Paternostro, now an acclaimed reporter, ...
In My Colombian War, Paternostro, now an acclaimed reporter, journeys back to the place where her family and closest friends still live, weaving authentic experience into a history of this ongoing conflict. Drawing on interviews with family members, rebel and paramilitary leaders, and a singular young American marine named Charlie, Paternostro portrays all sides of the conflict. Blending superb reportage with poignant personal stories, she offers a stunning, comprehensive narrative of Colombia's complicated past and present.
In this disjointed memoir, Paternostro describes her return to war-torn Colombia, which she left in the 1970s as a teenager. A member of a wealthy, landholding family, Paternostro attended American schools and universities and made a career in the U.S. as a journalist, while giving little thought to the country she left behind. Yet the crises of cocaine and civil war draw her professional attention and an assignment from the New York Timesallows her to return to her coastal hometown of Barranquilla. Once there, she discovers how much her conservative family's life of privilege is at odds with her own romantic left leanings, and how the danger of being kidnapped is only matched by her countrymen's refusal to acknowledge the civil war around them. All the elements are in place for a fascinating story and yet the memoir lacks essential clarity. Although Paternostro addresses various aspects of Colombian history, she doesn't illuminate them to any great depth, and the lack of a narrative through-line leaves the book adrift. Revealingly, Paternostro writes: "I go around without contact lenses; that way I cannot see too much. I think otherwise I would not be able to smile, to talk, to sleep, to stay here." Ultimately, the author's decision not to see clearly leaves the reader as confused as she is. (Sept.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
“The gifted journalist Silvana Paternostro confronts her own past, her family’s past, and Colombia’s past, in this indispensable guide to the drama currently being played out in the Latin south: a drug-haunted, tangled drama of feuds, rival warlords, criminal mafias, kidnappings, and endless civil wars. An intensely personal memoir, it demonstrates at the same time a firm grasp of the political, economic, and social realities that provide the background against which the headline news of Colombia in 2007, and 2008 and succeeding years, will continue to unfold. It makes fascinating reading.”—David Fromkin, Professor of International Relations, Boston University
“In this elegant and riveting exploration of Colombia, Silvana Paternostro journeys back to her homeland to confront the country that has long held a hypnotic hold on her psyche. My Colombian War offers not only insight into the troubled legacy of Colombia, but presents a beautiful portrait of a woman’s heartbreaking journey to understand the meaning of home.”—Danielle Trussoni, author of Falling Through the Earth
“My Colombian War cuts far deeper than the typical work of an international journalist, while at the same time, by tying Paternostro's quest to rediscover the country she left as a teenager to the violent yet moving history and culture of that nation more generally, achieving the status of something altogether superior to simple memoir. This is personal history writ large, a moving, admirably objective, and deeply courageous examination of how Colombia has arrived at its present troubled state, sometimes with the aid of outsiders, sometimes all on its own; and it could only have been written by someone with Paternostro's unique personal history, gift of observation, and record of laying bare the myths of Latin America. An absolute must for anyone who either aspires to an understanding of what is happening in the region, or who simply wants to read about a life that has been genuinely fascinating.”—Caleb Carr, author of The Lessons of Terror: A History of Warfare Against Civilians
“In this intensely honest and revealing memoir, Silvana Paternostro takes us on her own Rip van Winkle voyage of return to her beloved, violent homeland. It is a compellingly bittersweet chronicle, with touches of great beauty, much like Colombia itself.”—Jon Lee Anderson, author of Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life and The Fall of Baghdad
“Intimate, emotion-saturated portrait . . . the flavors and the colors are vivid . . . [a] compelling picture of contemporary Colombia and the roots of its problems. . . . a gift for the rest of us.”—William Grimes, The New York Times
“Paternostro’s stunning, no-nonsense prose truly lets you into her mind and the country’s history.”—Marie Claire