Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Héctor Tobar's debut novel is a tragic tale of destiny and consequence set in downtown Los Angeles on the eve of the 1992 riots. Antonio Bernal is a Guatemalan refugee haunted by memories of his wife and child murdered at the hands of a man marked with a yellow tattoo. Not far from Antonio's apartment, Guillermo Longoria extends his arm and reveals a tattoo--yellow pelt, black spots, red mouth. It is the mark of the death squad, the Jaguar Battalion of the Guatemalan army. A chance encounter ignites a psychological showdown between these two men who discover that the war in Central America has followed them to the quemazones, the "great burning" of the Los Angeles riots.
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An extraordinary novel, beautifully observed and driven by moral passion.From the Author:
If you are brave enough to travel through the seedier parts of downtown Los Angeles, you can see several of the sites that are the backdrop of my novel: homeless camps in abandoned tunnels, the brick tenements that are home to thousands of Central American immigrants, and the shopping strips that were turned to cinder and ash a few years back.
At its root, The Tattooed Soldier is the story of the conflict between the idea of Los Angeles as a place of unlimited freedom and opportunity, and the truth of the poverty and decay that have come to eat away at the very heart of the city. These concerns parallel my own dual life as a native Angeleno with roots in Guatemala. While I was growing up in affluent, ever-optimistic Southern California in the 1960s and 1970s, my family in Central America lived under a violent anti-Communist dictatorship. A war was being waged in Guatemala, just one of the many conflicts known collectively as the Cold War, all fought in the name of preserving the Pax Americana.
Eventually Los Angeles itself--perhaps the quintessential American city of the Cold War era--paid a price for maintaining the empire. I saw this firsthand when, in the late 1980s, I became a reporter for the Los Angeles Times and ventured into neighborhoods that had been assaulted by recession and the austerity of Reaganomics. Many of these neighborhoods were flooded with war refugees. It was here that I met the people and heard the stories that coalesced into The Tattooed Soldier.
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