Thursday, March 25 saw Gioconda Belli?s reading of her recently published autobiography, El Pais Bajo Mi Piel (available in English as The Country Under My Skin), at a small bookstore in Lynwood?s Plaza Mexico. Having published several award-winning novels during the past ten years, such as La Mujer Habitada (see http://www.giocondabelli.com for more information), Belli has had the fortune of building a loyal readership in Southern California.
About 40-50 people crowded Libreria Martinez to see Gioconda Belli read a few passages, answer some questions and sign guests? copies of her new book. Conducting the reading in Spanish, Ms. Belli took the opportunity to introduce some of the major themes of her book, namely her role in Nicaragua?s Sandanista movement and her life after the revolution. The small crowd watched Ms. Belli?s reading in awe, though Ms. Belli seemed intriguingly modest for someone who played a key role in the Sandanista movement.
Within Ms. Belli?s lively book are several chapters, many revealing a story of their own but spanning only a few pages in length. The most captivating stories are the ones in which she describes her private life, the moral dilemmas she encountered, and the pursuit of what unraveled itself as her destiny. In one such instance, Ms. Belli was under pressure by Fidel Castro to reveal tactical information relating to the Sandanista?s military strategy; she paints a colorful picture of Castro and his followers, and wonders if there was a different and more personal motive for his questions.
It was a special treat, for admirers of her work, to be exposed firsthand to Ms. Belli?s unrepenting embrace of both the personal and communal aspects that make life worth living. Though Ms. Belli mentions that she felt as if most mothers in her child?s kindergarten class would never suspect her to have trafficked weapons for a coup, Ms. Belli does radiate a type of confidence and passion not commonly found in most persons.
Reading Country Under My Skin is an enjoyable experience of its own and a recommended read for those repeatedly torn between contradicting philosophies- but searching for a healthy balance. Though lacking her physical presence, Country Under My Skin continues to mine an astounding instance of how one book can capture and express much of one?s private life.
Edward Flores works as a Research Interviewer, and as a freelance writer, in Los Angeles. He can be contacted at email@example.com