“He’s okay, but Ileana says he’s a little nervous about being touched.”
I nod, but inside my down coat I’m shaking. Sure, she told me about Papá being tortured, and it was on the leaflets too. But that was just words. This guy is really messed up. Maybe he isn’t Papá. Maybe this is some kind of sick joke, some way they have of torturing the family, killing Papá and sending this crippled guy to take his place.
Daniel’s papá used to play soccer, dance the cueca, and drive his kids to school in a beat-up green taxi…while secretly publishing an illegal newspaper that exposed Chile’s military regime.
After Papá’s arrest in 1980, Daniel’s family fled to Wisconsin. Now Daniel has a new life, playing lead guitar in a rock band and dating Courtney, a minister’s daughter. He intends to become a U.S. citizen as soon as he turns eighteen.
When his father rejoins them, Daniel sees what five years of prison and torture have done to him. Papá is partially paralyzed, haunted by nightmares, and bitter about exile in “Gringolandia.” Daniel worries that his father will drag the family back to a dangerous police state. And he tries to discourage Courtney from starting a bilingual human rights newspaper that could rake up the past and drive Papá further into alcohol abuse and self-destruction. Daniel wants a real father-son relationship, but he may have to give up everything to save his papá’s life.
This powerful coming-of-age story portrays an immigrant teen’s struggle to reach his tortured father and find his place in the world.
Praise for Gringolandia
Gringolandia is a strong telling of a difficult subject. It brings the headlines home. One wishes it were about events long ago and far away, instead of continuing in the here and now. Beautifully-drawn characters weave a story with both horror and redemption, and of a family struggling to find its way back to one another. A stunning achievement.
—Deborah Ellis, author of the Breadwinner trilogy and the Cocalero novels
On its surface this historical novel is about the struggle to overthrow the Pinochet dictatorship resulting in the torture of a revolutionary and his family’s exile to the U.S. Dig deeper, and you’ve got a story about the struggle to keep a family together in spite of great emotional rifts, to keep one’s sanity while very much in the midst of life’s storms, to keep loving in the face of a seemingly loveless world. But beyond everything else, this story is about survival. Ultimately, what Miller-Lachmann has written is a universal tale so good that I hated to see it end. I wanted 50 more pages. 75. 100. Countless are the ways I can use this novel in my classroom.
— René Saldaña, Jr., author of The Jumping Tree, Finding Our Way, and The Whole Sky Full of Stars
Miller-Lachmann credits teen readers with the capacity to appreciate hard truths about international politics, the consequences of torture, complex family dynamics, and first loves….the nuanced relationship between Daniel and his father is beautifully delineated, and the overarching exploration of injustice and its costs gives the novel memorable heft.
How, through Marcelo, Daniel discovers the Chilean that still lives inside him, and how Courtney, “la gringa,” teaches Marcelo that the land of gringos is not only the home of those who supported the military coup…but also a land of human-rights lovers make for riveting reading. This poignant, often surprising and essential novel illuminates too-often ignored political aspects of many South Americans’ migration to the United States.
– Kirkus Reviews
Miller-Lachmann skillfully incorporates elements of family drama, teen romance, and political thriller into this story of a father and son reknitting themselves into each other’s lives….From the stark cover image of an empty pool used to torture victims to the intensely poignant essay that concludes the novel, this is a rare reading experience that both touches the heart and opens the mind.
– School Library Journal
…this novel covers crucial historical events that have been too long ignored. Most compelling are the teens’ nonreverential narratives about living with a survivor….The strength of his novel is the honesty of Daniel’s mixed feelings about ‘my father, the freedom fighter’
Told with raw honesty, Miller-Lachmann’s gritty novel grabs readers from the first word and holds them until the very last. This poignant novel introduces young adults to a horrific period in history, finally giving voice to those long silenced. Highly Recommended.
Gringolandia is on my list of best books of the year because it’s a very powerful political novel, a real rarity in YA ranks but the kind of book that is essential in our increasingly small but increasingly complex world. It obviously will offer many opportunities for classroom use, but I also hope it will invite spirited discussion among individual readers….In 2010 I continue to think it’s an important book and one of the very few that addresses the subject with such art and insight.
Gringolandia is a true crossover book, with appeal for adults as well as older teens. For concerned young people eager to learn about the real world, this intimate study of the consequences of torture will be a treasure.
Committed to publishing multicultural young adult novels that focus on social justice, Curbstone Press has found an author who creates believable characters. Gringolandia is a journey through the past that offers a stark glimpse into life under a ruthless dictator and his regime. Just as compelling is Miller-Lachmann’s depiction of family and friends torn apart and then brought back together by a revolution.
–ALAN Review/ALAN’s Picks
Heartfelt and strong, with an in-your-face immediacy, this novel is revelatory in its portrayal of repressive regimes, immigrants, and familial relationships…an excellent choice for older teens and high school curricula.
–VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates)
This action-packed story is a wonderful work of historical fiction that is a must-have for any library or personal collection.
–Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database
Awards for the Book
- 2010 ALA Best Books for Young Adults
- 2010 Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Books of 2010 (Ages 14 and up)
- 2010 Américas Award Honor Book
- IPPY (Independent Publishers Association) Gold Medal
- Finalist, Foreword Book of the Year, YA Fiction
- ALAN’s Pick, 2009
- 2011 TayshasHigh list (recommended list for the state of Texas)
Information for Teachers
Teachers may wish to make use of the following materials:
- Teacher’s Guide to Gringolandia (PDF) (Background information on Chile, discussion questions, standards-based activities in a variety of subject areas, and an extensive annotated bibliography.)
- A Bundle of Letters (PDF) (A letter-writing activity for Gringolandia that allows students to step inside the story and take the role of Daniel, his sister Tina, or his mother as they write to Marcelo in prison.)
Where to buy this book
Gringolandia. Publisher: Curbstone Books, ISBN-13: 978-1931896498.