The Barnes & Noble Review from Discover Great New Writers
What is it that makes a revolutionary? Few lives are as dangerous, exciting, or spellbinding as that of Giocanda Belli: wife, mother, acclaimed poet and novelist, and former Sandinista activist who played a prominent role in the overthrow of Nicaragua's dictatorship in 1979. And in The Country Under My Skin, she has produced a remarkable page-turner of a memoir.
Born to an upper-class Nicaraguan family, Belli married a similarly privileged young man at the age of 18 and soon started a family. But she quickly became frustrated with her sheltered domestic life and her husband's melancholic spirit. Falling in with a group of artistic bohemians, Belli developed a sincere desire to do away with class privilege and improve life for the Nicaraguan people. This quest led her to join the Sandinista guerrillas, who were intent on wresting power from the tyranny of the Somoza regime.
Despite the quixotic nature of her calling, Belli was still a woman -- a wife and mother struggling to balance her vocation and her family. She writes of the challenges of working while pregnant; of her reluctance to leave her children in order to work; of the desperate measures she employed to maintain custody of her children after a bitter divorce; and of her passion for the handsome and powerful men she met.
Frightening and exhilarating, Belli's historic tale is an incredibly dramatic one. Readers will be well rewarded by this lucid and lyrical memoir of Nicaraguan history and of a life irrevocably changed by it.
Winter 2002 Selection
First published in Spain in 2001, this insider's account of the Sandinista revolution that ended the Somoza family's 45-year dictatorship is also a frank examination of Belli's idealistic search for love and acceptance. A Nicaraguan poet and novelist, Belli takes readers from her early marriage to her first affair; from her first poetic endeavor to the day she won the prestigious Premio Casa de las Am ricas; from her first subversive act to living in exile and, finally, back to her liberated homeland in 1979. Belli oscillates between idealizing the Sandinista project and pointing out the revolution's missteps and excesses. She repeatedly judges the dishonest politics of the Ortega brothers, who headed one of the Sandinista factions, and exposes the machismo that tainted the revolution, keeping women from the Sandinistas's inner circle. After taking power, the junta went so far as to exclude women from the army. "How could they think such a thing when women had already proven themselves to be as able fighters as men during the insurrection?" Belli complains. As the spokesperson for the Sandinistas, Belli traveled extensively to gain support for the revolution, and was many times treated more as a woman than as a revolutionary. Fidel Castro made sexually charged comments when he first met her, and Panamanian strongman General Omar Torrijos tried to seduce her. Ironically, though, when it came to deciding between love and her feminist ideals, Belli chose the first. She sacrificed her career as head of Nicaragua's TV station to become Modesto's personal assistant (Modesto was a member of the junta), and chose an affluent lifestyle in California with her current husband to distance herselffrom a deteriorating revolution. "I felt I had no existence unless a man's voice said my name and a man's love rendered my life worthwhile," she admits. In the end, Belli's choices and emotional conflicts give flavor to the political side of her memoir, turning it into a captivating page-turner. Highly recommended for all libraries and bookstores interested in the Sandinista revolution and women's studies. Carmen Ospina, "Cri ticas" Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
“Impactante . . . una historia verdadera de pasión, poesía, insurrección y muerte. . . . Es un relato apasionante contado con ternura, honestidad y humor.” —Los Angeles Times
“Esta es la mejor autobiografía que he leído en años: un relato apasionado, lírico y sin corta-pisas de una vida extraordinaria en el arte, la revolución y el amor. Es un libro para disfrutar, para leer y releer. Inolvidable.” —Salman Rushdie
“La memoria de Gioconda Belli se lee mejor que una novela. Relata sus extraordinarias experiencias como revolucionaria, amante y madre con honestidad, pasión, inteligencia y, sobre todo, poesía. El País Bajo Mi Piel es tanto la historia de un país como la historia de los grandes sueños de una mujer fuera de lo común.” —Cristina García
“Rara vez el amor y la revolución se han entretejido tan provocativa y esplendidamente como en esta memoria herética del viaje sensual e intelectual de una mujer que se descubre a sí misma en Nicaragua.” —Ariel Dorfman