Redrooffs Readers’ Bookclub Report

Something Fierce: memoirs of a revolutionary daughter
Carmen Aquirre
Published May 20122
HC, 288 pages, D & M, $32.95

by Margaret Frederickson

 Recently, the Redrooffs Readers discussed Carmen Aguirre’s memoir, Something Fierce: memoirs of a revolutionary daughter. The consensus was that the title might well have been Something Randy: reaching puberty and making out while working for the underground in 1980’s South America.

Many of us wondered how Carmen’s mother could use her children , including a nursing baby, as cover for her very dangerous revolutionary activities. Carmen and her sister were certainly neglected and traumatized. We thought this book might have been written as therapy.

Carmen went on to join the revolution, and I, for one, believed her political conviction was genuine, but the group felt that all the detail of the make- out sessions shoved aside the political seriousness of the book.

When I started reading the book, I struggled with the idea that I was reading about “real” events. As soon as I let go of that notion, and regarded the book like a novel, where the narrator was reconstructing events from memories from years past, and from stories others had told her from her childhood, I had a much easier reading experience. I found myself liking Carmen, even if some of the story isn’t “true” in the strictest sense. Memory is a tricky thing. Hence, so are memoirs.

The club found itself grousing about memoirs, as we had similar problems with Jeannette Wall’s The Glass Castle when we read it several years ago. Maybe we’ll drop memoirs altogether.

My favorite memoirs of all time are Patrick Lane’s There Is a Season and Brian Brett’s Trauma Farm. Both involve the lives of writers, and their passion for growing things. Perhaps we should be reading different memoirs. Winning Canada Reads, as the Aguirre book did, may not be the best recommendation for our bookclub. At least, not this time.


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