This book got me to wondering about the Ls, who moved in down the street from me when I was a kid. They were from Chile, but I have no idea if they fled oppression or sneaked out with their money. Probably the former, given the timing, but I think my parents didn't like them, so I don't know. Anyway, this book is written mostly from the point of view of the son of a Chilean political prisoner. While the father, Marcelo, was being tortured in jail, his wife, eleven-year-old son Daniel, and eight-year-old daughter Tina emigrated to Madison, Wisconsin. Eventually the family is reunited, but Marcelo is very broken. At seventeen Daniel is doing pretty well; he has a girlfriend, excels at soccer, and plays guitar in a band. His sister isn't thriving quite as handily, and I'm not sure about Mamá.
Daniel's coming-of-age tale is about embracing his identity in dangerous Chile vs. in the relative ease of the United States, Gringolandia. That ease is also represented by La Gringa, his Spanish-speaking girlfriend Courtney, a well-meaning preacher's kid who helps the Aguilar family quite a bit, but sometimes takes things too far. I was glad to see this examination of the white do-goodism, but also disappointed that the female characters in the novel don't represent well, especially in a book written by a woman. I suspect that author (a teacher, MLS holder, and editor of the MultiCultural Review, which I'm going to have to try to get my hands on) Lyn Miller-Lachmann is rigorous with her self in her writing. I.e. She tries not to over identify with the people who are most similar to herself--e.g. a white (as far as I can tell Ms. Miller-Lachmann is white, although she edited a book of stories by Latin@ authors), female writer character.
This is a good read for teens and also adults, even those that aren't way into YA.