Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

On Writing: Canada Reads Edition, with Carmen Aguirre

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Carmen Aguirre

Carmen Aguirre is the author of Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter (Douglas & McIntyre), one of the contenders for CBC Canada Reads 2012. Something Fierce relates Carmen's experience growing up as part of the Chilean resistance.

Carmen talks with Open Book about her Canada Reads experience, her turbulent years in South America and the promise of celebratory salsa dancing.

Open Book:

Tell us about your book and when you wrote it.

Carmen Aguirre:

My book, Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter, is a darkly comic memoir about growing up in the Chilean resistance. It is a coming-of-age tale set against the dramatic backdrop of leading a double life in 1980s South America. Starting in 1979 at Los Angeles International Airport, when I was eleven years old, it takes us through Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil and Argentina. I delve into the life of a young girl, and how her own political consciousness is born while being raised by revolutionary parents who run a safe house. By the time I turn eighteen, I become a militant myself, plunging further into a world of terror, paranoia and euphoria. The theme of the book is commitment clashing with desire, and, really, who can't relate to that?

The book came out in 2011. I started writing it in 2009. In 2003 I began to take notes that would lead to Something Fierce.


What was most difficult about writing this book and what was most pleasurable?


The most difficult thing about writing this book was to condense a series of events into 70,000 words. I already knew what I wanted the structure to look like; my editor was very useful in letting me know when enough was enough, when too much information was detrimental to the ebb, flow and rhythm of the book. So I had to choose each story carefully, knowing how it informed the big picture that I was crafting.

The most pleasurable part of writing the book was to revisit people, places, events and memories that I hadn't thought about in a long time.


Tell us about the experience of meeting the CBC Canada Reads panelist who will be defending your book.


I must admit that I had never heard of Shad prior to meeting him. When I heard he would be defending my book, I immediately YouTubed him and fell in love with his music. A few hours later, I met him and was blown away by his grounded intelligence, his soft-spoken demeanour, his way with words and his passion for the book.


In your opinion, what unique reading experience does non-fiction offer?


The fact that you're reading something that someone was brave enough to say “This is my truth, this is my experience, this is the way I remember it”.


If your book wins the competition, how will you celebrate?


I will have a wonderful dinner with close friends and then go salsa dancing.

Carmen Aguirre is a Vancouver-based theatre artist who has written and co-written twenty plays, including Chile Con Carne, The Trigger and The Refugee Hotel. She has over sixty film, television and stage acting credits, and is currently appearing as Alcina on Showcase’s Endgame. Carmen is also a theatre director, acting teacher and a Theatre of the Oppressed workshop facilitator, working with communities around British Columbia.

Although Carmen found her calling as an actor and storyteller at the age of three, when her parents took her to the circus in the south of Chile she decided to dedicate her youth to the Chilean revolutionary movement, running a safe house for underground resistance members seeking refuge in Argentina, and doing routine border runs into Pinochet’s Chile. She decided to go to theatre school and dedicate her life to her artistic calling after Pinochet fell, when she was twenty-two years old.

Something Fierce is her first book.

For more information about Something Fierce please visit the Douglas & McIntyre website. For more information on CBC Canada Reads, please visit their website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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