Here’s a short excerpt:
Light floods the stage. I stand in the center, alone with my guitar. Flecks of light dance off its steel strings. I hit a power chord, then another. The audience is jumping up and down, hands waving and clapping. My heart thuds, my feet stomp to the beat, and the stage vibrates under my sneakers. My fingers race over strings alive with electric current, pressing and releasing in time to the drumbeat, the clapping of the audience. The final chord echoes; applause builds. The audience screams louder, louder.
I recognize one scream, rising above the rest.
I awaken to screaming. I throw off the covers, sit up. I shake my head, trying to clear it. The screams are dying away, but I hear my mother’s voice saying, “It’s all right; you’re safe,” over and over in Spanish and a lot of rustling in the room across the hall.
A memory flashes: Don’t get out of bed. You know what happens when you get out of bed.
I bury my head under the covers, the way Tina must have done the night the soldiers came. A lead weight fills my stomach. I swallow the stale taste in my mouth. On one side of me are harsh, muffled cries and terrified whispers. On the other side, a tapping.
“Daniel?” The wall that separates my bedroom and Tina’s is thin, and her voice is weak and scared.
“What’s going on?”
“I don’t know.”
“Can you check?”
I don’t answer.
“Okay, Tina.” I fluff the covers to make it sound like I’m doing something. I hear footsteps-familiar footsteps. Not strangers, not soldiers. My door opens with a click. I jump out of bed.
It’s Tina. Her face is blank in the darkness, but her voice is accusing. “I knew it. You’re not doing anything.”
“Okay, okay,” I mumble. In my T-shirt and boxers I walk across the hall to my parents’ bedroom. I tap the door with my knuckles, but no one answers. They’re still talking in hushed voices in Spanish.
Tina scoots up beside me. “Are they fighting?”
“No. I don’t think so.”
I knock again, louder. The door opens a crack. I try to peer inside, past Mamá’s face, but all I see is the dresser and part of the window. The main light is off, but a lamp glows from somewhere else in the room.
“It’s all right, kids. Go back to bed,” she says in English. “Your father had a nightmare.” Her face is pale and her eyes huge black circles in the dim light.
“He was screaming, Mamá.”
“I know. I know,” she says, like she wants to get rid of us.
“Is it because he had that interview today? He was talking about his printer friend who they killed. And when he was in the hospital.”
Mamá sighs. “Daniel, please take your sister and go to bed.”
“Come on, Tina,” I say, pushing her toward her room. She goes inside, and I shut myself in my room. Not long after, I hear Papá’s unsteady shuffle in the hall and a clatter as kitchen cabinets are opened and shut. I tiptoe into the hall.
The lights are off in the rest of the apartment, except for a dim lamp in the corner of the living room. Papá sits alone at the table in the kitchen area. The tip of his cigarette burns orange in the semidarkness. In front of him is the bottle of liquor that he’d planned to serve Courtney and me in celebration, and a half-filled glass.
I retreat to my room, load a tape into my Walkman, and push the volume up. I’ll go deaf at this rate, but it drowns out the screaming that echoes in my head.
Lyn Miller-Lachmann writes a heartfelt story with Gringolandia. It is completely honest and gripping. It follows the story of a family who was a victim of the political situation in Chile in the 80s. Gringolandia really brings a new light to readers. Part of what is so intriguing about Gringolandia is that while politics are a major piece in the story, they aren’t overpowering in the story. Gringolandia focuses more on how politics can tear a family apart, and that in itself is really something.
Gringolandia alternates perspectives slightly between being told from Dan’s POV and Courtney’s POV. I really liked how it switched up a bit, and how you hear Courtney’s story as well. You also hear Marcelo’s confessions of what happened, and they just break your heart! You see all the characters change: Marcelo on the verge of going over the edge, Courtney determined, Tina unsure.
Gringolandia is so powerful and emotional. It is a book that will stick with readers.
Check back tomorrow for a guest post with Lyn Miller-Lachmann!!
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