My Colombian War

A Journey Through the Country I Left Behind

Silvana Paternostro

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“Intimate, emotion-saturated portrait . . . the flavors and the colors are vivid . . . [A] compelling picture of contemporary Colombia and the roots of its problems . . . a gift for the rest of us.”—William Grimes, The New York Times

Growing up in the coastal city of Barranquilla, Colombia, Silvana Paternostro enjoyed a privileged childhood, a comfortable existence marred only briefly by fleeting encounters with the social inequalities and burgeoning drug trade that threatened the country’s security. Soon, however, these shadowy threats intensified, boiling over into the most violent, most protracted, and most misunderstood civil war of our time.

In My Colombian War, Paternostro, now an acclaimed reporter, journeys back to the place where her family and closest friends still live, weaving authentic experience into a history of this ongoing conflict. Drawing on interviews with family members, rebel and paramilitary leaders, and a singular young American marine named Charlie, Paternostro portrays all sides of the conflict. Blending superb reportage with poignant personal stories, she offers a stunning, comprehensive narrative of Colombia’s complicated past and present.

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Reviews

Praise for My Colombian War

“The gifted journalist Silvana Paternostro confronts her own past, her family’s past, and Colombia’s past, in this indispensable guide to the drama currently being played out in the Latin south: a drug-haunted, tangled drama of feuds, rival warlords, criminal mafias, kidnappings, and endless civil wars. An intensely personal memoir, it demonstrates at the same time a firm grasp of the political, economic, and social realities that provide the background against which the headline news of Colombia in 2007, and 2008 and succeeding years, will continue to unfold. It makes fascinating reading.”—David Fromkin, Professor of International Relations, Boston University
 
“In this elegant and riveting exploration of Colombia, Silvana Paternostro journeys back to her homeland to confront the country that has long held a hypnotic hold on her psyche. My Colombian War offers not only insight into the troubled legacy of Colombia, but presents a beautiful portrait of a woman’s heartbreaking journey to understand the meaning of home.”—Danielle Trussoni, author of Falling Through the Earth
 
My Colombian War cuts far deeper than the typical work of an international journalist, while at the same time, by tying Paternostro's quest to rediscover the country she left as a teenager to the violent yet moving history and culture of that nation more generally, achieving the status of something altogether superior to simple memoir. This is personal history writ large, a moving, admirably objective, and deeply courageous examination of how Colombia has arrived at its present troubled state, sometimes with the aid of outsiders, sometimes all on its own; and it could only have been written by someone with Paternostro's unique personal history, gift of observation, and record of laying bare the myths of Latin America. An absolute must for anyone who either aspires to an understanding of what is happening in the region, or who simply wants to read about a life that has been genuinely fascinating.”—Caleb Carr, author of The Lessons of Terror: A History of Warfare Against Civilians
 
“In this intensely honest and revealing memoir, Silvana Paternostro takes us on her own Rip van Winkle voyage of return to her beloved, violent homeland. It is a compellingly bittersweet chronicle, with touches of great beauty, much like Colombia itself.”—Jon Lee Anderson, author of Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life and The Fall of Baghdad

“Revelatory . . . a moving, highly memorable take on how a country lost its moorings.” —The Atlantic

“Paternostro’s stunning, nononsense prose truly lets you into her mind and the country’s history.”—Marie Claire


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About the Author

Silvana Paternostro

Silvana Paternostro is a Colombian-born journalist. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, and Time, among other publications, and she is the author of In the Land of God and Man, a finalist for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award. In 1999 she was selected by Time/CNN as one of the fifty Latin American leaders for the millennium. A senior fellow at the World Policy Institute, Paternostro lives in New York City.

Silvana Paternostro

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Available Formats and Book Details

My Colombian War
A Journey Through the Country I Left Behind
Silvana Paternostro

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
Henry Holt and Co.
Holt Paperbacks
September 2008
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780805088601
ISBN10: 0805088601
5 11/16 x 8 15/16 inches, 336 pages, Includes four maps throughout
$19.99

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Henry Holt and Co.
November 2013
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781466856332
ISBN10: 1466856335
336 pages, Includes four maps throughout
$7.99
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