Something Fierce, Carmen Aguirre’s memoir published in 2012, was the CBC Canada Reads champion that same year. It has garnered rave reviews and was named to the long list of the B.C. National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction. Aguirre is a Vancouver playwright and actor. She has written more than twenty stage plays to date, including In a Land Called I Don’t Remember, Chile Con Carne, and The Trigger. That she retains the commitment to her revolutionary past is evident in such works as Refugee Hotel, a play about Chilean refugees, nominated for a Dora Award for best new play in 2010. She also plays Alcina, a prominent character in Endgame, a Canadian drama television series that premiered on the Showcase Television network in 2011.
Coming of Age in the Chilean Resistance: Review by Francisca Zentilli, Special to The Globe and Mail.
“Something Fierce is Vancouver playwright and actor Carmen Aguirre’s memoir of growing up in the resistance as the daughter of a revolutionary Chilean mother in the decade between 1979 and 1989, a journey into selfhood in a high-stakes world of secrecy, fear, bravery and love.
“Aguirre was 6 when she and her family fled to Canada as political refugees after the military coup of Sept. 11, 1973, which removed Salvador Allende, the democratically elected socialist president of Chile, and brought dictator Augusto Pinochet to power.
“When, in 1978, the Chilean resistance called for exiled activists to return to Latin America, Carmen’s mother chose to take her daughters with her, rather than leaving them with relatives or with supporters in Cuba. Aguirre describes the experience of eating at McDonald’s in a food court at Los Angeles Airport and what that meant to the 11-year-old daughter of exiled Chileans, for whom McDonald’s is ’the ultimate symbol of imperialism.’
“She describes life in Chile on their return in rich detail and with life experiences that include everything from Charlie’s Angels to stories of torture. Her insights are often quite hilarious. Her mother, a revolutionary, had instilled her own values in her children. To suddenly have her mother, a hippie for as long as she could remember, dress in middle-class clothes and do things she didn’t believe in meant something was up. It was a façade, she says.
“’A façade is when you make up a story because it’s dangerous to tell the truth. … It’s a story you make up when you are involved in something bigger than yourself and you don’t want to risk your life or the lives of others.’
“Something Fierce is raw, courageously honest and funny; an insightful journey into the formation of a revolutionary soul.””