Guantanamo Boy by Anna Perera
Khalid Ahmad is a 15 year old English boy. He watches and plays futbal, works hard at school, has strong family values and an affinity for computer games. He takes a trip to Pakistan with his family, as his father must clean up loose ends after his grandmother dies. Of course, Khalid is in Pakistan in the wake of 9/11 and is picked up for being a terrorist. He is then thrown in jail without a trail, his habeous corpus suspended — however I don’t know if England has habeous corpus. Right-o. Of course, Khalid winds up in Guantanamo, which breaks several geneval laws.
What I notice about Guantanamo Boy is the underlying political statements. It is very critical of the war on terror. It is very critical of Guantanamo Bay. For the most part, I understand that criticism. However, I felt it was just a little too blatant for me. I’m not very comfortable when someone forces their political opinion on me. Yet, I do think what Perera has done in raising awareness about the unfair practices of Guantanamo Bay is fabulous.
One thing which bothered me, it may not bother you, was the graphic descriptions of the torture Khalid underwent. I’m conflicted as I write this because I especially found it disturbing. However, I suppose being edgy is necessary to get the point across about just how bad torture is, and how confessions extracted under duress aren’t quite real confessions at all.
Guantanmo Boy was a compelling read, but THE MESSAGE was a little too loud, clear, and blatant for me. I thought this was an average message read.
Gringolandia by Lyn Miller-Lachman
Imagine waking up to soldiers in the middle of the night. Your father is dragged off and you don’t know if you will ever see him again. A few years down the line, you have perfectly adjusted to a new life, when you find out your father is released from the prison he was placed in. If these things happen to you, chances are you are a character named Daniel in a book called Gringolandia.
Gringolandia takes place during the magical 80s. Turns out, 80s wasn’t all great tv, movies and music. Actual things were happening in the world such as the Chilean revolution. What happened is the Chileans elected a socialist person to power. The US was like, no way bro, and totally killed the socialist and instituted a dictator in power. The Chileans were all, we don’t like this! And people rebelled and fought for freedom. Daniel, who is the main character, has a freedom fighter father, who was TORTURED in jail. So his dad, understandably is messed up by that. Oh, and I forgot to mention, Daniel and his family now live in the United States.
I thought Gringolandia worked on several different levels. Characterization was tight. See, Daniel was layered. His dad is layered. OH and he has this girlfriend, Courtney, who sort of forced me to confront these ridiculous ideas I had. I’m not gonna lie, I thought Courtney was so annoying, because she was all trying to do annoying things like write a social justice newspaper and ask Daniel’s dad these probing questions for her newspaper. Then she gets herself into these dangerous situations. But then I thought, self, would you be annoyed if she was a male? Or would you just think her very courageous? I like it when a book makes me consider my brainwaves.
As historical fiction, I thought Gringolandia was both absorbing and informative. I don’t know much about the Chilean revolution except when Howard Zinn mentioned it in A People’s History of the United States. I do think getting a teenager’s perspective made the learning much more engaging. The teenager wasn’t one of those fake ones either, you know, when the character seems contrived. I liked that the history was part of the story, but not the whole story.
The next layer which worked especially well was the family relationships. What I love here is just how complicated the relationships are. I don’t know if I’m weird, but my relationship with my family is complicated. I love my family, but they do some very annoying things and I do very annoying things. Well, the way Daniel’s father relates to his family is multilayered. On the one hand, he cares for his family. On the other, he is so messed up from being tortured, all he can think about is Chile and going back. Plus, he’s dealing with all of these other problems. I won’t go too in-depth, so as not to spoil.
In a nutshell, I found myself compelled during Gringolandia.
Books Throw Down:
Accessability – in terms of storyline, getting an actual copy, and relatablity – Gringolandia was easy to obtain, the characters were deep, and I felt a connection.
Guantanmo Boy – No copies on Amazon, I had to purchase a kindle copy and read it on my iPhone. Khalid is an average teenage boy, concerned about soccer and girls. I could seen teenage boys relating to him.
Point Goes To: Gringolandia
Knowledge Gained: In Guantanamo Boy, I learned all different methods of torture, graphically. I learned all the reasons why it sucks. I learned a message. Of peace. In Gringolandia, I learned about Chile, it’s history, and a couple of Spanish words.
Point Goes To: Guantanamo Boy
Wordsmithying: Totally not a real word. Gringolandia was fast paced with deep characters who I actually cared about. Guantanamo Boy has only one character we get to know, but we really get to dive below the surface.
Point Goes To: Gringolandia
Ultimate Winner: GRINGOLANDIA
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Disclosure: I bought both of these books.
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