Something Fierce

Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter

Carmen Aguirre

Published: 2 August 2012
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 288 pages
ISBN: 9781846272028


One minute, 11-year-old Carmen is watching her hippy mum put curlers in for the first time, the next she is being dragged with her sister through LA airport with her mother muttering about 'the patriarchy' under her breath. The three of them board a plane that takes them to Peru, next door to the Chile from which the family had fled after Pinochet's coup. Eight days after landing in Lima, and still perplexed by their mother's disguises and lies, they're off again, on a bus bound they know not where. They are then to spend most of the next decade, the 1980s, moving from dictatorship to dictatorship, evading capture, torture and peril at every turn. It is no way to spend your teenage years, until, overnight, it becomes the way Carmen herself chooses.

About the author

Image of Carmen Aguirre

Carmen Aguirre was taken, aged 11, from her comfortable Canadian exile, by her mother, to Chile, then Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, spending the next 6 years in the safe houses her mother and stepfather ran. At 18, she joined a guerrilla organization in Pinochet's Chile. Today she again lives in Canada, where she is a celebrated playwright and actress - she was in Quinceanera, a Sundance winner. Her first book, Something Fierce, was published by Portobello Books in 2012. Its follow-up, Mexican Hooker #1, will be published in April 2016. More about the author


Something Fierce is raw, courageously honest and funny; an insightful journey into the formation of a revolutionary soul.’ Francisca Zentilli



‘A blend of passion and loneliness fills this memoir... Moving’ James Urquhart

‘A brutally honest and wryly funny story, told through the eyes of a girl young enough to yearn for cork-soled platforms and steal kisses with boys but old enough to know the people arriving at her parents' safe house in La Paz are limping and exhausted because they've been tortured.’ Janet Smith

‘A moving, heart-racing journey through the political landscape of South America during the 1970s and 1980s... an inspiration to anyone who strives to live a life of purpose and passion.’ Camilla Gibb

‘An extraordinary chronicle of a rootless childhood in revolutionary South America’ Claire Allfree

‘Carmen Aguirre is not simply the daughter of revolutionaries. She herself gave her life to the struggle... She allows us to feel the abandon and terror of such a childhood, then gives us as well her own story of struggle. And she is a master storyteller. In this extraordinary memoir we accompany her in childhood, desperation, doubt, fear, and commitment. I recommend it to everyone who loves life and needs to know what some give up so life is possible.’ Margaret Randall, author of Sandino’s Daughters

‘Carmen Aguirre was destined to become a revolutionary. Born a week after the death of Che Guevara, Aguirre grew up in a household obsessed with social upheaval: her mother and stepfather were part of the underground movement that spread throughout South America following Pinochet's violent 1973 coup in Chile. In this lively, often tense memoir... Aguirre has written a fascinating, warts-and-all portrait of herself, her family, and South America. The book is written by someone who is clearly no stranger to bravery.’

‘Carmen writes like someone who knows how it feels to exhale with no certainty that another breath will follow. While articulating the conflicted emotions she felt but rarely spoke about during these years, Carmen never once expresses resentment toward her parents or regret for the way she was raised, though at one point Ale says out loud what every reader must be thinking: "Here's a revolutionary thought: provide for your children and pay attention to them.’

‘The conflict between her rootless existence, the constant sense of danger and wanting to be a typical teenager sent Aguirre into a spiral of neuroses. The push against Pinochet ultimately failed, but Aguirre's tone is far from defeatist in this dryly humorous, tautly narrated and inspiring memoir.’

‘This extraordinary book is four texts in one: a hilarious, pelvis-rocking story of a young girl on an impassioned journey into womanhood, a harrowing testament to the physical and mental labours involved in revolutionary work, a history of Latin America ravaged by dictatorship and neoliberal economics, and a deeply loving memoir of a family.’ Karen Connelly, author of The Lizard Cage

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