A Canada Reads 2012: True Stories Contender and long-listed for the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction.A gripping, darkly comic first-hand account of a young underground revolutionary during the Pinochet dictatorship in 1980s Chile.
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.
"[Carmen Aguierre's] life has been anything but regular, and she seamlessly and eloquently tells her early life story in her first book."
"[Carmen Aguierre's] story is the personal experience of a brave young woman evolving her understanding of herself and her place in the world, told with passion, personal insight, rich detail and humour...Something Fierce is raw, courageously honest and funny; an insightful journey into the formation of a revolutionary soul."
"Aguirre has written a fascinating, warts-and-all portrait of herself, her family, and South America. The book is a brave document, written by someone who is clearly no stranger to bravery."
"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."
"It’s a spellbinding, important, informative and wildly entertaining story. Aguirre’s playwriting background shows in the active scenes. Her writing never tries to reach above the story. She is to the point and cutting."
"Aguirre, a playwright, has crafted a narrative packed with suspense, emotion, and dollops of sardonic humour. 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."
"The years of [Carmen Aguirre's] tumultuous teens are evocatively detailed in her first book, Something Fierce, a new memoir that illuminates what it’s like to come of age amid terror. What it is most certainly not is a political treatise or a book about heroism or martyrdom. What you get is a brutally honest and wryly funny story, told through the eyes of a girl young enough to yearn for cork-soled platforms and steal kisses with boys."
"Aguirre has crafted a narrative packed with suspense, emotion, and dollops of sardonic humour."
"A moving, heart-racing journey through the political landscape of South America during the 1970s and 1980s, told by a brave daughter of the Chilean resistance. Something Fierce is an inspiration to anyone who strives to live a life of passion and purpose."
"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."
"Something Fierce is more than a journey into the shadows of political repression. What could have been a narrative of unremitting horror is relieved by joyous occassions...and by poetic descriptions of surroundings...Carmen Aguirre, now a respected playwright, has found the courage to revisit her terrors. She has inherited the heart of a revolutionary so the struggles for justice will continue, one the page, or on the stage."
"Something Fierce is energetic, funny and dark, thoughtful and moving, told from the perspective of a girl growing into womanhood in a household where to be in the resistance was always to be poised between life and death."
"...raw, courageously honest and funny; an insightful journey into the formation of a revolutionary soul."
"This extraordinary memoir is long overdue. I recommend it to everyone who loves life and needs to know what some give up so life is possible."
"Aguirre's riveting memoir chronicles her childhood as the daughter of Chilean resistance fighters...[her] writing is splendid; she combines black humor and a sharp intellect and tells her powerful story in grand style."
"Aguirre's writing is, indeed, something fierce. That she has finally told this story is a triumph."