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Dennis Gruending.

Moose Jaw, Coteau Books, c1983.
Distributed by Thunder Creek Publishing Co-operative.
85pp, paper, $14.00 (cloth), $6.00 (paper).
ISBN 0-919926-18-5 (cloth), 0-919926-17-7 (paper).

Grades 11 and up.
Reviewed by Anne Locatelli.

Volume 11 Number 6.
1983 November.

"For years Latin America had beckoned. . .While modern colonizers levelled Amazon forests and leaned from airplanes to shoot Indians, I went to University in a prairie city and later made the obligatory trip to Europe. I returned, graduated, took a job, fell in love, took a better job, bought a house. Seldom did I think about the love and torture being committed in the Soutk." So Dennis Gruending, poet and journalist, summed up the life he led before he set out for his South American journey of discovery, which resulted in the writing of Gringo. "Gringo," he says in his introductory poem, "a word/given by Spaniards/to those feared and hated:/Drake and the brigand English."

Gringo is a book of contrasts. The colour, the pain, the injustice, the ignorance, the poverty, and the beauty of those third world countries are all highlighted in this remarkable travel journal. The narrative, interspersed with short, sharp poems, is vivid and often quite moving. Presented with the reporter's careful eye for detail, it somewhat reminds one of bright flashes that quickly provide deep insights into the core of different lands and different cultures, stretching all the way from Mexico to Peru and back.

Gringo is a strong book: it makes one think and feel; it makes one laugh and weep; but above all, it makes one more keenly aware of human injustices and promotes a sense of commitment. In this sense, Gringo is an important book: whether the message comes through the polished prose or the terse, powerful verses, it is unmistakable and clear. Pleasing to the eye and inviting, its structure resembles that of an anthology; in fact, one may open the book at any point and find both a story and a message to be pondered. Truth is never easy to face: Gringo is not an easy book to be taken lightly; it is not even a travel book, really, but rather a statement, a moral judgement, meant for those who care to listen.

Anne Locatelli, Elliot Lake S. S., Elliot Lake, ON.
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