Book Review: Surviving Santiago

FC9780762456338title: Surviving Santiago
author: Lyn Miller-Lachmann
Date:Running Press Kids; 2015
main character: Christina “Tina” Aguilar

We first me Tina Aguilar in Lyn’s previous book, Gringolandia. There, she was a minor character in her brother’s story but here, she takes center stage when she returns to Chile to spend time with her papá. The deal her parents made was that Tina would spend time with papá if he were to sign divorce papers so that his wife, Tina’s mom, could remarry. Rather than spending time with her friends, Tina is on a plane to visit a father she no longer knows. She does have good memories of him, but they’re from when she was really little and before he spent time in prison in Chile. Papá seems to have a level of respect for his outspokenness, but Chile in the 1980’s was not a country that freely provided such privilege. Papa’s isn’t safe and is surrounded by bodyguards. The stress of the oppressive regime and the pain of his injuries has taken its toll on him and is numbed by alcohol.

He’s been to America before, yet he remains in Chile. One has to wonder why he would maintain such an allegiance to his homeland, why not leave for a safer, more secure life. While his daughter sees him as a weak, pathetic man, we come to realize a richness to him that speaks volumes not only about him but also about the country to which he is so loyal. His loyalty is exemplified by both the fact that he stays and because he fights for his country. He doesn’t give up. This theme of loyalty plays out elsewhere in the book, relationships that make us question when do we give up, when do we move on? And, when do we fight?

Miller-Lachmann became interested in Chile under the Pinochet regime after spending time there in the 90s. She authenticates the story through personal and professional research which she documents in the Author’s Notes. In her story, she’s able to document the politics and economics of life under this regime, including the oppression faced by gay and lesbian individuals. In Surviving Santiago, Lyn writes about a country and a time that really isn’t that far from where we are now. She uses teen angst and budding romance to interest today’s readers in the past, something that few writers can do so well.

In full disclosure, Lyn Miller-Lachmann is someone I know personally and truly admire for her dedication to young people and to social justice. And, yes to Legos. Lyn is the former Editor of MultiCultural Review. For Gringolandia, she received a work-in-progress award for a Contemporary Young Adult Novel, given by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She lives in New York City, New York  and is active in organizations for peace, human rights, and a sustainable environment.