Synopses & Reviews
On September 11, 1973, a violent coup removed Salvador Allende, the democratically elected socialist president of Chile, from office. Thousands were arrested, tortured and killed under General Augusto Pinochet's repressive new regime. Soon after the coup, six-year-old Carmen Aguirre and her younger sister fled the country with their parents for Canada and a life in exile.
In 1978, the Chilean resistance issued a call for exiled activists to return to Latin America. Most women sent their children to live with relatives or with supporters in Cuba, but Carmen's mother kept her precious girls with her. As their mother and stepfather set up a safe house for resistance members in La Paz, Bolivia, the girls' own double lives began. At eighteen, Carmen herself joined the resistance. With conventional day jobs as a cover, she and her new husband moved to Argentina to begin a dangerous new life of their own.
This dramatic, darkly funny narrative, which covers the eventful decade from 1979 to 1989, takes the reader inside war-ridden Peru, dictatorship-run Bolivia, post-Malvinas Argentina and Pinochet's Chile. Writing with passion and deep personal insight, Carmen captures her constant struggle to reconcile her commitment to the movement with the desires of her youth and her budding sexuality. Something Fierce is a gripping story of love, war and resistance and a rare first-hand account of revolutionary life.
"Aguirre's riveting memoir chronicles her childhood as the daughter of Chilean resistance fighters. Aguirre's parents fled to Canada in 1974 after the overthrow of the democratically elected Salvador Allende. Five years later the Chilean resistance called for exiled activists to return to South America. Many women sent their children to Cuba to live with relatives rather then take them back to Chile and imperil their safety. The family settled in La Paz, Bolivia, setting up a safe house for individuals involved in the struggle. At 18, Aguirre became a member of the resistance. Relocating to Argentina, she carried out dangerous missions while having the cover of an ordinary day job. Dressed as a professional with her hair streaked with blond highlights, her makeup heavy, and her shoulder pads huge, she battled back her fears of being imprisoned and tortured: 'The Terror came in waves, sometimes forcing me to hang on to walls as I walked down the street.' While adroitly chronicling her remarkable childhood within the constricted world of exiled revolutionaries, Aguirre simultaneously untangles the complex political, economic, and cultural currents sweeping South America, ushering in the brutal Pinochet dictatorship. Aguirre's writing is splendid; she combines black humor and a sharp intellect and tells her powerful story in grand style." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"In a voice that rings beautifully and heartbreakingly true — filled with tenderness, confidence, vulnerability, compassion, fear, and courage — Something Fierce movingly renders the normal difficulties and pleasures of adolescence as they collide with the urgent sacrifices and consequences of clandestine political struggle. Only a real writer could do justice to such a remarkable story, and Carmen Aguirre proves up to the task at every turn — an overwhelming and inspiring read." Casey O'Neil, Elliott Bay Book Company
"Aguirre's riveting memoir chronicles her childhood as the daughter of Chilean resistance fighters....Aguirre's writing is splendid; she combines black humor and a sharp intellect and tells her powerful story in grand style." Publishers Weekly
"Most of her youthful revolutionary acts, from bringing down the mighty to plotting to assassinate Augusto Pinochet, did not come to fruition, but Aguirre is usually funny and self-deprecating rather than rueful or repentant." Kirkus Reviews
"A moving, heart-racing journey through the political landscape of South America during the 70s and 80s told by a brave daughter of the Chilean resistance. An inspiration to anyone who strives to live a life of passion and purpose." Camilla Gibb, author of Sweetness in the Belly
"Aguirre's story is the personal experience of a brave young woman....Something Fierce is raw, courageously honest and funny; an insightful journey into the formation of a revolutionary soul." The Globe and Mail
"A coming-of-age story that blends birthday parties and puppy love with indoctrination in the tradecraft of subversion: how to arrange the delivery of secret documents, how to lose a police tail, how to lead a double life." Toronto Star
"Carmen writes like someone who knows how it feels to exhale with no certainty that another breath will follow....The stories that fill this book feel like the stories of several lives, not the adventurous, exhilarating and harrowing adolescence and early adulthood of one extraordinary person." National Post
"[Aguirre] has crafted a narrative packed with suspense, emotion, and dollops of sardonic humor. Even better, her searing memoir conveys the confusion and heartache of adolescence alongside the violent upheavals of Latin America during the late 1970s....Never polemical or self-pitying, Aguirre has written a crisp, dramatic account of growing up under extraordinary circumstances." Quill and Quire
"Aguirre's writing is, indeed, something fierce. That she has finally told this story is a triumph. This extraordinary book is four texts in one: a hilarious, pelvis-rocking story of a young girl on an impassioned journey into womanhood, a harrowing testament to the physical and mental labors involved in underground revolutionary work, a history of a Latin America ravaged by dictatorship and neoliberal economics, and a deeply loving memoir of a family." Karen Connelly, author of The Lizard Cage and The Dream of a Thousand Lives
Winner of Canada Reads 2012
Nominated for the Charles Taylor prize and the BC Award for Canadian Non-Fiction
On September 11, 1973, General Augusto Pinochet led a violent coup that removed Salvador Allende, the democratically elected socialist president of Chile, from office. Thousands were arrested, tortured and killed under the repressive new regime. Six-year-old Carmen Aguirre and her younger sister fled the country with their parents for a life in exile.
Five years later, when her mother and stepfather returned to South America as Chilean resistance members, Carmen and her sisters double lives began. At 18, Carmen herself joined the resistance, plunging further into a world of terror, paranoia, and euphoria. Something Fierce takes the reader inside war-ridden Peru, dictatorship-run Bolivia, post-Malvinas Argentina, and Pinochet's Chile during the eventful decade between 1979 and 1989.
Dramatic, suspenseful, and darkly comic, it is a rare account of revolutionary life and a passionate argument against forgetting.
About the Author
Carmen Aguirre is a Vancouver-based writer and theatre artist who has worked extensively in North and South America. She has written or co-written eighteen plays, including The Refugee Hotel, which was nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore Award for best new play in 2010. Something Fierce is her first book.