My Colombian War: A Journey Through the Country I Left Behind

Silvana Paternostro, Author . Holt $25 (336p) ISBN 978-0-8050-7605-9

In this disjointed memoir, Paternostro describes her return to war-torn Colombia, which she left in the 1970s as a teenager. A member of a wealthy, landholding family, Paternostro attended American schools and universities and made a career in the U.S. as a journalist, while giving little thought to the country she left behind. Yet the crises of cocaine and civil war draw her professional attention and an assignment from the New York Times allows her to return to her coastal hometown of Barranquilla. Once there, she discovers how much her conservative family's life of privilege is at odds with her own romantic left leanings, and how the danger of being kidnapped is only matched by her countrymen's refusal to acknowledge the civil war around them. All the elements are in place for a fascinating story and yet the memoir lacks essential clarity. Although Paternostro addresses various aspects of Colombian history, she doesn't illuminate them to any great depth, and the lack of a narrative through-line leaves the book adrift. Revealingly, Paternostro writes: “I go around without contact lenses; that way I cannot see too much. I think otherwise I would not be able to smile, to talk, to sleep, to stay here.” Ultimately, the author's decision not to see clearly leaves the reader as confused as she is. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 07/23/2007
Release date: 11/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 323 pages - 978-0-8050-8860-1
Open Ebook - 336 pages - 978-1-4668-5633-2
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