Carolina De Robertis has written a beautiful novel about a horrifying time in South American history. Perla is a young woman who comes of age following Argentina’s Dirty War (1976-1983). As a young adult, Perla learns that her family was involved in the fates of “the disappeared,” and must contend with that legacy.
The novel addresses the longterm aftermath of a dictatorship that violates the human rights of its own people. Hundreds of the disappeared were pregnant women who gave birth in captivity. Their babies were secretly adopted into families among the regime. Most would never learn their identities.
Just last week, on her blog, the author shared the response she has received from readers around the country who attend her book events and share their own stories of the disappeared.
An excerpt of Perla is available on the author’s website.
Adult/High School–As the daughter of a Navy officer in late 1970’s Argentina, Perla lives in a rarified and protected world unaware that hundreds of men and women are being taken from their homes, tortured and brutally killed by the government. Then, when she is six-years-old, a new friend introduces her to these “desaparecidos”–the “disappeared”–and their mothers and grandmothers who march every day in the square demanding their return. This is a forbidden topic in Perla’s home, and while she cannot understand the easy answers her mother gives her for the disappearances, she somehow knows not to tell anyone that her father is in the military. In alternating chapters, Perla tells her story as a fourth-year college student in Buenos Aires, and the day she opens the door to her house to find a man in her living room. He is wet, naked, and crouching on her floor. He sparks the journey of discovery that drives Perla, caught between the family she has known all her life and the secret that lies behind her secure and privileged life, to search for the truth that she suspects. Unable to speak, the visitor remembers that he was taken, tortured, and dropped into the ocean. What saves him are the memories of his wife, his baby, and his desire to understand what it is that brings him to this living room to talk with this young woman. De Robertis holds back none of the torture, passion, pain, and desperate love that families face during violent times. While some scenes of brutality may be hard to read, many mature teens will find this book uniquely satisfying. Its textured prose is pure poetry.–Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA