A violent coup in 1973 removed Salvador Allende, the democratically elected socialist president of Chile, from office. Thousands were arrested, tortured and killed under General Augusto Pinochet's repressive regime. After the coup, six-year-old Carmen Aguirre and her younger sister fled the country with their parents for Canada and a life in exile.
In 1978, the Chilean resistance issued a call for exiled activists to return to Latin America and Carmen's mother and stepfather were among those who responded. As their mother and stepfather set up a safe house for resistance members in La Paz, Bolivia, the girls' own double lives began. Carmen Aguirre's memoir is a chronicle of coming of age during this tumultuous time, and offers drama, passion and humour.
Something Fierce was the winner of Canada Reads 2012, when it was championed by Shad.
As my mother bit into her Big Mac, her glasses caught the reflection of a purple neon light somewhere behind me. Barry White's "Love's Theme," my favourite song, blasted from the loudspeaker. Mami looked hilarious in her new aqua eye-shadow. Her plucked eyebrows gave her a surprised expression. Then there was her frosted pink lipstick, which was smeared across her chin now, and the unfamiliar scent of Charlie. I'd helped her choose that perfume. The picture on the box showed one of Charlie's Angels doing the splits in mid-air, wearing a white pantsuit and platform shoes. In dressing for our trip that morning, my mother had followed her lead, though not the splits part, because she was four foot ten and round. Now here we were in a food court at Los Angeles International Airport, which my mother referred to as "l-a-x." She and I and my sister, Ale, had walked for ages through the terminal, looking for our gate, and the whole time she'd rubbed the palms of her hands into the small of her back, muttering, "Firing squad to the woman hater who invented heels."
From Something Fierce by Carmen Aguirre ©2011. Published by Douglas & McIntyre.