Leonora Gelb came to Peru to make a difference. A passionate and idealistic Stanford grad, she left a life of privilege to fight poverty and oppression, but her beliefs are tested when she falls in with violent revolutionaries. While death squads and informants roam the streets and suspicion festers among the comrades, Leonora plans a decisive act of protest—until her capture in a bloody government raid, and a sham trial that sends her to prison for life.
Ten years later, Andres—a failed novelist turned expat—is asked to write a magazine profile of “La Leo.” As his personal life unravels, he struggles to understand Leonora, to reconstruct her involvement with the militants, and to chronicle Peru’s tragic history. At every turn he’s confronted by violence and suffering, and by the consequences of his American privilege. Is the real Leonora an activist or a terrorist? Cold-eyed conspirator or naïve puppet? And who is he to decide?
In this powerful and timely new novel, Andrew Altschul maps the blurred boundaries between fact and fiction, author and text, resistance and extremism. Part coming-of-age story and part political thriller, The Gringa asks what one person can do in the face of the world’s injustice.
Andrew Altschul is the author of the novels Lady Lazarus and Deus Ex Machina. His work has appeared in Esquire, McSweeney’s, Ploughshares, Best New American Voices, Best American Nonrequired Reading, and O. Henry Prize Stories. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow and Jones Lecturer at Standrod University, he was the founding books editor at The Rumpus and is a Contributing Editor at Zyzzyva. He teaches at Colorado State University.
Rivka Galchen received her MD from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, having spent a year in South America working on public health issues. Galchen completed her MFA at Columbia University, where she was a Robert Bingham Fellow. Her essay on the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics was published in The Believer, and she is the recipient of a 2006 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award. Galchen lives in New York City. She is the author of the novel Atmospheric Disturbances.