Canada Reads winner Carmen Aguirre talks about the terror she experienced as a child in the Chilean resistance, and responds to panelist Anne-France Goldwater calling her 'a bloody terrorist.'
GS: Were you scared as a kid? When you look back at some of the experiences you've had...
CA: Terrified. Terrified. So my definition of bravery is not a person who doesn't feel fear, it's a person who feels fear, but who does what they think they have to do, regardless of the fear. So that's also one of the things I was working with in terms of themes for the book. One of the themes was terror. What it's like to live in a state of terror, 24 hours a day. So I wasn't interested in heroism or martyrdom - and I purposely used the word revolutionary in the title, in order to demystify that word, right? There's no heroism there. It's just regular people, who believe in a cause and who are willing to put their lives on the line for that cause that they believe in.
GS: Well if terror plays a big role - how did you feel about being called a terrorist.
CA: Many of the people I admire in history - whether it be Latin American or world history - have been called terrorists.
GS: You're talking about Mandelas...
CA: Yes. If I'm in the same league as Mandela, that's a very big compliment.
GS: But did it anger you?
CA: No - I mean, she was talking about the book, she was talking about the person that was being portrayed in the book. She wasn't talking about me - the mother of the 5-year-old son, the actor, the friend, the sister, the daughter, so no.
GS: How do you define terrorism?
CA: It's a group of people who target civilians.
GS: And some terrorists used to be freedom fighters ...
CA: If you're targeting civilians, then you are a terrorist, so if you're a black civilian in Apartheid South Africa, fighting for your rights, and you believe that sometimes you need to defend yourself in a violent manner - because the oppressor is the one that always defines the nature of the struggle - not you - I don't believe that's terrorism.
For more on Canada Reads and Carmen's win, check out CBC Books.