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Book Recommendation: Spiral of Silence

Published: Monday, 11 Feb 2019
Author: Angie Melissa Vega
Department: Latin American Studies Center

Elvira Sánchez-Blake's shattering testimonial novel, Spiral of Silence, breaks thirty-year silences about the traumatizing impact of Colombia's civil war, and centers on the experiences of women who move through hopelessness, loss, and grief during this volatile era in Latin American history.

A multigenerational epic, Spiral of Silence (Espiral de Silencios) opens in the early 1980s, as peace and amnesty agreements spark optimism and hope. We meet Norma, a privileged, upper-class woman who is married to an army general; Maria Teresa (Mariate), a young rebel who loves a guerrilla fighter and navigates commitments to motherhood and revolutionary activism; and Amparo, a woman who comes of age later, and carries the confusion and dislocation of a younger generation. Each contends with the consequences of war and violence on her life; each is empowered through community-building and working for change.

Few authors have considered the role of women in Colombia during this wartime period, and Sánchez-Blake's nuanced exploration of gender and sexism —framed by conflict and social upheaval—distinguishes the novel. Drawing on stories from women who have worked within organizations in Colombia to end state violence, Spiral of Silence celebrates resistance, reinvention, and how women create and protect their families and communities.

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