As you know, yesterday deb Natalia Sylvester’s debut novel, CHASING THE SUN, came out into the world. The novel is about a lot of things. It’s about family. Crime. Power. Sacrifices and choices. It’s also about controversy.
You see, CHASING THE SUN is set during a period in Peruvian history swathed in mixed emotions. There are several references in the novel to the rise of Alberto Fujimori to power. As a Spanish major, I took a lot of classes about Latin American history. I know from my studies (and, okay, I admit, I quick refresher on Wikipedia), that Fujimori served as president of Peru from 1990 to 2000. He is often credited with stabilizing Peru’s struggling economy and ending the armed rebellion associated with the communist guerrilla insurgent group known as the Shining Path. He was also found guilty by the Peruvian Supreme Court, in 2009, of human rights violations for his role in kidnappings and killings by death squad.
So, you see, these wounds are still fresh. By setting her story in Lima during the transitional years when the Shining Path and Fujimori were struggling for dominance, CHASING THE SUN jumps right into the middle of a hot topic. Political controversy does not dominate the novel, though, and rightly so. It is, after all, principally the story of a marriage quite literally cleaved through the middle. But neither does the story shy away from the reality of what Peru must have been like in those uncertain days.
I have never believed that an author has to live an experience in order to write about it. If that were true, I think readers would miss out on a great deal. Though she did not live in Peru in the 1990s, Natalia gives that period and place a human face through Andres, as he fights to negotiate with Marabela’s kidnapper and bring his wife and the mother of his children home. Through the novel, Natalia presents a snapshot of Peru’s very recent civil strife to American readers who may not otherwise know much about this complicated part of Peru’s past. And, above all, she tells a heart-pounding, page-turning story while doing so.
What are some of your favorite books that tackle controversial topics or time periods?
Image Credit: Chris Taylor
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