GENERATION EXILE: THE LIVES I LEAVE BEHIND
This engrossing chronicle explores exile, identity and one man’s search for belonging.
by Rodrigo Dorfman
Publication Date: March 31, 2023
Format: Trade Paperback
“If you ever sing those songs again, they will kill your daddy,” the boy’s mother warned him after he continued to sing one of the hymns of the Chilean revolution in public. Rodrigo Dorfman, the son of prominent dissidents, was six years old when his family fled Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship a month after the CIA-backed coup in 1973.
In his fascinating memoir, Dorfman writes about his experiences as an exile and a migrant. He was dragged away from his homeland, “seduced by the thrill of flying on airplanes and visiting far-away places,” but reassured the family would return soon. They fled to Argentina, and then to Havana, Paris, Amsterdam and finally Bethesda, Maryland. His muse and identity were “sealed and stamped with that curse, with that blessing, with that irresistible myth: the eternal return.”
Mapping the memory of exile, he remembers the contradiction of living with his seething anger at losing his home and his resistance to settling down. Rebellion was an ancestral badge of honor he wore proudly. At 18, he returned to Chile and fought against the fascist dictatorship, running for his life with bullets and tear gas flying by. Dorfman’s involvement in the resistance movement there planted the seeds for his future life as a community-centered documentary filmmaker. His restless search for a place to call his own led to his wandering—around the United States, to Morocco and Turkey and the Path of Sufism. He finally made a home in the American South, where he became a “Latino” and found kinship with other immigrants who settled there. This compelling narrative recounts a displaced man’s life-long quest to establish family, roots and a sense of belonging by bearing witness to what he calls the “Nuevo South.”