You know all those stories that end with "They lived happily ever after"? Gringolandia begins after the "ever after."
Lyn Miller-Lachmann researched and wrote a heartfull story about a man's life after having lived with torture for so many years and the effect this had on his family. His wife worked with others, wrote letters, and waited for her husband to return. Brother, Daniel, and sister, Tina, face different issues in accepting the dad that was so different from their recollection. After the father, Marcelo, was imprisoned, the mother and children moved to America to be safe. As with most moves, the family's life was changed and their customs adjusted to their environment. When the father returns, his hold as the family head of household was shaken.
The jist of the story is that the father wants to return to Chile and continue his fighting the revolution. However, the family was not so sure about the idea. Yet everyone wanted to support him.
The father, Marcelo, can appear as rude or obnoxious, yet all his actions and discontentment are integrated with the history of his torture. The author doesn't do a heavy analysis of what reactions are normal for a person recovering from torture. I'm sure she had to do tremendous research on the subject. However, she does an excellent job of showing and not telling us what was going on for the man: the confusion in his intentions combined with the confusions of the rest of the family's expectations.
The story is told from Daniel's point-of-view. He is a teen in high school, who plays a guitar and has a white girlfriend. The introduction of Courtney is a bit of a mystery to me. Probably because I am not smart enough to figure out the undertones. Courtney's history with her own family is revealed, and we can understand her zeal in wanting to work with Daniel's father. She takes upon herself to set in action things that Daniel is afraid will hurt his father more than he already is. I'm not sure why so many people let her get away with what she did. I think that the assertion all of us, people of color, grew up with was the essential factor in that decision. We know better than to call a white person on their actions in spite of their motives. Many times because the white person believes their intentions are noble. Too hard to explain to them the difference.
One finds it difficult to say they enjoyed this book because of the emotional upheaval everyone experience. Yet Gringolandia is an excellent read to see family dynamics at work, and the consequences of one's belief in an unfair system. Or is it world? Get to know this family for they will stay in your memory teasing you with I wonder what happened toÔÇª.
Jo Ann Hernandez:
Jo Ann Hernandez, author of award winning "The Throwaway Piece" and "White Bread Competition" and assistant editor at Latina Lista and publisher of BronzeWord Latino Authors, promoting and marketing Latino/a authors to the world. Author's website Email the author