A Coming of Age in Latin America
A Note From The Author:
I’m writing with exciting news: my new book, Gringo: A Coming of Age in Latin America has just been published by Scribner. It is available for sale at bookstores across the country and at online retailers, including Amazon.com. Below I have pasted a brief description of my book as well as some early praise.
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Gringo charts two journeys, both of which began a decade ago. The first is the sweeping transformation of Latin American politics that began with Hugo Chavez's inauguration as president of Venezuela in 1999. In that same year, an 18-year-old Chesa Boudin leaves his middle-class Chicago life, which is punctuated by prison visits to his parents, who were incarcerated when he was 14 months old for their role in a politically-motivated bank truck robbery, and arrives in Guatemala. He finds a world where disparities of wealth are even more pronounced and where social change is not confined to classroom or dinner table conversations, but instead takes place in the streets.
While a new generation of progressive Latin American leaders rises to power, Boudin criss-crosses 27 countries throughout the Americas. He witnesses the economic crisis in Buenos Aires, works inside Chavez’s Miraflores palace in Caracas, watches protestors battling police on September 11th, 2001 in Santiago, descends into ancient silver mines in Potosi, and travels steerage on a riverboat along the length of the Amazon. He rarely takes a plane when a 15-hour bus ride in the company of unfettered chickens is available.
With incisive analysis, brilliant reportage, and deep humanity, Boudin’s account of this historic period is revelatory. It weaves together the voices of Latin Americans, some rich, most poor, and the endeavors of a young traveler to understand the world around him, while coming to terms with his own complicated past. The result is a marvelous mixture of coming-of-age memoir and travelogue.
EARLY PRAISE FOR GRINGO:
Seymour Hersh, staff writer at the New Yorker
"This is not Latin America for Yuppies, which shouldn't be much of a surprise, knowing the lineage. It's cheap beer, fried plantains, long dusty bus rides, radical politics, the repeated kindness of desperately poor people sharing what they have with an outsider, and Chesa Boudin's eagerness to share what he's seeing and what he's feeling, with sympathy and empathy -- as he tries to sort it all out. There's much to learn in this book."
Russell Banks, Author of Cloudsplitter and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters:
"The mix of personal memoir and political analysis, the mingling of narrative with explication, and the modesty and clarity of the prose all bring a young Orwell to mind. Chesa Boudin's Gringo might well be Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London for the Millennial Generation, except that instead of Paris and London, it's Caracas and Quito and the Amazon Basin. Beyond all that, it's a profound non-fiction bildungsroman, as well as one fine travel book. This is an extraordinary debut."
Greg Grandin, Author of Empire's Workshop, and a Professor of History at NYU:
Observers of Latin America from the United States usually try to answer some variation of the same question: what accounts for the weakness of democracy in the region? But in Gringo: Coming of Age in Latin America, Chesa Boudin flips that question on its head to consider the sources of Latin America's democratic vitality: its people who, despite having to deal with seemingly intractable poverty, indifferent or recalcitrant national elites, and the meddlings of Washington, continue to believe that a more just, inclusive world is possible. Having traveled, lived, and worked in Latin America over the last ten years, Chesa Boudin has a pitch perfect ear for the cadences that that make up daily life in a region grappling with change. Gringo though is more than a well-written and clear-eyed guide to the efforts of yet another generation of Latin American leaders and activists trying to chart their own way. It's a handbook for estadounidenses on how to listen to and learn from those below the Rio Grande who also call themselves Americans.
Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States:
In GRINGO, Chesa Boudin takes us on a delightfully engaging trip through Latin America, in an ingenious combination of memoir and commentary. The personal story is unflinchingly honest, and the political judgements nuanced and thoughtful. Latin America is at the outer edge of consciousness in this country, and Chesa Boudin brings it back to our attention, eloquently and vigorously.
Noam Chomsky, Linguist, scholar, and activist:
This marvelous voyage of personal discovery provides a vivid portrait of the richness and diversity of Latin America, its wonders and suffering, the courage and irrepressible spirit of its people, as they are revealed to a thoughtful and sensitive eye during the most exciting and hopeful decade since the European conquests. It is an enthralling account, stimulating and provocative.
John Coatsworth, dean of Columbia University's school of international and public affairs, and a Latin American Studies scholar:
This is a travel book with a difference. Chesa Boudin has written a compelling first-hand account of the unregulated greed, social neglect, and deliberate misrule that have provoked so many Latin Americans to demand a better life for themselves and their children. His vivid accounts of travels on crowded buses full of children and chickens, leaking river boats, and cliff hugging minivans are filled with memorable characters whose individual stories capture both the tragedies and the promise of this vast region. A must read for students and citizens seeking to understand the social conditions, and the social movements, that are driving much of Latin America to the left.
Phillip Lopate, writer, author of the Art of the Personal Essay:
This superb travel memoir has the benefit of an appealingly honest, intelligent and reliable narrator, whose humorous self-scrutiny and compassionate insights bridge two worlds with extraordinary tact. I found it engrossing, moving and compulsively readable.