Synopses & Reviews
A timely, evocative account of a reporter's reckoning with her homeland's volatile past
Growing up in the coastal city of Barranquilla, Colombia, Silvana Paternostro indulged in the typical concerns of a privileged young girl: friendships and parties, school and family. But soon it became apparent that life in Colombia would not go on as usual. Strange planes appeared overhead, the harbingers of the marijuana drug trade that would explode into cocaine wars over the next decade, and soon after, a disputed election would lead to demonstrations and kidnappings targeting the affluent landed elite--including Paternostro's family. A revolution was brewing, and the social inequalities reflected in her life would boil over into the most violent, most protracted, and most misunderstood civil war of our time.
In My Colombian War, Paternostro journeys back to the place where her family and her closest friends still live, weaving authentic experience into a history of this ongoing conflict. Through interviews she allows us to witness the treacherous war zone that Colombia has become, projected on the daily lives of its citizens. Paternostro's book is a stunning, comprehensive narrative of Colombia's 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 Times allows 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.)' Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
“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
Growing up in the coastal city of Barranquilla, Colombia, Silvana Paternostro enjoyed a privileged childhood, a comfortable existence marred only briefly by fleeting encounters with the social inequalities and burgeoning drug trade that threatened the countrys security. Soon, however, these shadowy threats intensified, boiling over into the most violent, most protracted, and most misunderstood civil war of our time.
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 Colombias complicated past and present.
About the Author
Silvana Paternostro is a Colombian-born journalist. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, and Time, among other publications, and she is the author of In the Land of God and Man, a finalist for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award. In 1999 she was selected by Time/CNN as one of the fifty Latin American leaders for the millennium. A senior fellow at the World Policy Institute, Paternostro lives in New York City.