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The Tattooed Soldier
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The Tattooed Soldier

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  364 ratings  ·  31 reviews
Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Héctor Tobar's debut novel is a tragic tale of destiny and consequence set in downtown Los Angeles on the eve of the 1992 riots. Antonio Bernal is a Guatemalan refugee haunted by memories of his wife and child murdered at the hands of a man marked with a yellow tattoo. Not far from Antonio's apartment, Guillermo Longoria extends his arm and ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published July 1st 2000 by Penguin Books (first published June 24th 1998)
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Jimmy Recinos
This book is a powerful exploration of race in Los Angeles during the 1990s. From the outset, Tobar captures the way that differences in race, language, and occupations substantially appears to flesh out the identity of its characters and the relations between them. Whether it’s the jarred dialogue between Antonio and Mr. Hwang or Longoria’s superiority complex towards his fellow Central Americans, the relations between characters in the novel are critically engaged by an author who shows insigh ...more
Bethany
This novel, admittedly, draws on a lot of the political issues I am most interested in. You can clearly see Tobar's journalistic background throughout the novel, and it was very clever to frame the story around a tale of revenge. The writing style was wonderful, the dual timelines were pulled off beautifully, in my opinion. I can't wait to read the rest of his books.

I don't think the characters were as simplistic as some people are writing them off to be, and I thought the play between the PTSD
...more
Elaine
Against the backdrop of the Central American wars of the Reagan era, Tobar follows the intertwined lives of two Guatemalans from across a deep political divide. The fates of a young middle class revolutionary, who finds himself alone and homeless in Los Angeles, and a death squad soldier who hoards photos of the peasants and indios he has brutalized and slaughtered cross -- both in Guatemala and in Los Angeles. Tobar, a former LA Times reporter, vividly recreates life in Guatemala during a time ...more
Sheehan
Maybe it is just the right book at the right time, but I think there is something pretty special about the narrative of Tobar's "Tattooed Soldier" this is definitely the best fiction I read this year.

Following the lives of two opposing and intertwined Guatemalans in Los Angeles, this story was woven in such a way that characters (who are well-developed) still manage to get in line with a really engaging telling of the shared drama in the main characters' lives.

It's as much an insight into the li
...more
Kristin
I picked up this book on a whim and I'm glad I gave it a chance. It was a refreshing read from the many books written with white protagonists (which is mainstream American literature).

Being an L.A. native, it was fun recognizing the street names and locations mentioned in the book. It made the book more realistic. I enjoyed the characters who were authentic and believable.

Even though I enjoyed the book, I wonder if the book could have ended differently. I felt somewhat unsatisfied. The suspens
...more
Gabriel Oak
An engaging revenge story set in Los Angeles. A Guatemalan immigrant sees a man he believes was a soldier in a death squad responsible for his wife's murder and decides to go after him. I liked how the individual stories coalesced in the collective violence of the 1992 LA riots, but I thought everything happened to quickly in the end.
Jean
The Guatemalan protagonist, Antonio, tells his story non-linearly about the revolution in his home country and the death of his wife and child. He resides in Los Angeles and miraculously comes across the soldier who killed his family and seeks revenge -- all while he and his new best friend from Mexico are evicted from the room they share and become homeless. The text is interspersed with Spanish. This is a compelling story and quite satisfying. How some people can live through such hardship and ...more
Lindsay Wilcox
I can't say that I knew much about Guatemala before reading this book, so it definitely helped me learn on that part. The existence of the School of the Americas is particularly appalling. Quecha is cool. I'm a sucker for mysteries, so wondering when the threads of the story would come together kept me more interested in this book than I was in most of the other books I read for my Chicano literature class. I might have read this if it wasn't assigned, but I would have been more likely to pass o ...more
Nicole
An interesting insight into the Guatemalan civil war as well as a critique of LA during the time of the Rodney King riots. The book nicely parallels both events through the experiences of two Guatemalans living in LA who are entertwined in, but on opposite sides of, both conflicts. These two characters are the core of this book. My one big complaint is that the ending didn't seem quite as compelling and satisfying as I feel it could have. Overall a good book though.
Kate
Wouldn't it be nice if the world were this simple? Good, evil, and a good person sent down an unfortunate path of homelessness by tragedy and heartlessness. I had trouble buying into this book, because the protagonist was so sympathetic. Just the same, I enjoyed Tobar's descriptions of the villain's neurotic, zoo-animal/soldier exercise rituals, his obsession with cleanliness, his unsympathetic motives.
Leticia
Great Book! Strong characters : Elena and Antonio were both an inspiration in their own unique way. This part of what Antonio points out is both sad but true in many societies:
"with a gun anyone could be a killer.Guns were very democratic instruments. They did not discriminate. With guns the weak became strong, the frightened brave. Anyone who held one became invincible." pg. 269
Cristina
This story is told through different perspectives and it had me hooked from the start. There were times I couldn't put the book down and other times I had to because the story is so sad. However, the ending wasn't as great as the rest of the story. Thus, I gave it four stars. I probably would have given it five, if I liked the ending as much as the rest of the book.
P
I've heard this book mentioned many a time, but just hadn't picked it up. Now I'm kind of glad I waited, because after having lived in L.A. for 6 years now, I know the places he's talking about - downtown, MacArthur Park. And it's such a fast read - I'm flying threw it, picking it up for just one more chapter... when I should be doing work!
Hunter
People don't usually talk about how immigrants bring pieces of their pasts with them to their new homes. This book is about unfinished business, conflict that started in Guatemala and plays out in the streets of Los Angeles, further evidence that LA is more connected to Latin America than to the rest of the United States.
Katelyn
wow! for assigned reading this book was actually really good. i know i gave it a 3, but really it's like a 3 1/2. the characters were tragic and well developed, multi-dimensional, etc etc. the prose was so easy to follow and the themes empathetic. so, even though the class (literature of california) blows, the book was good!
Kathleen McRae
The Tattooed Soldier is a very crisply written story of politics in Guatemala and a time when thousands of people disappeared.Mr to bar recounts his tale from the perspective of a fleeing Guatemalan and the member of the killing Jaguar squads who was indoctrinated as a child soldier. A very well written book!
Makereal
I was surprised that Tobar led me deftly right into his personal story of the 92 LA riots. I didn't expect the chaos of that upheaval to rescue the protagonist from his moral dilemma. I would go back and read his Pulitzer Price winning LA Times coverage of the riots.
from my book club list
Dan B.
Nov 30, 2009 Dan B. rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who like mediocre books
Meh...

I looked forever to find this book after reading Tobar's Translation Nation essays and columns. I was excited when I finally found it, but the book has no humor, weak characters, and a simple plot. At least it was short.
Maria
amazing book. speaks of the struggles of the central american immigrant escaping from war. book is very raw and real, not sugar coated or watered down for the "intellectual reader"
Julie
This is a riveting novel with gruesome details, but very well written. A story about more than just revenge, but of attaining liberation.
Christoph
The violence in it is excessive and sometimes unnecessary. Don't read this book if you have kids under the age of 5. Not a memorable book otherwise.
Melissa
I liked this exploration of loss and revenge told from two points of view. It ended in a way I was not expecting, which I also liked.
Jose
The topic had so much potential, but falls flat. I found myself not wanting to pick up the book again...numerous times.
San
This political novel is written with compassion as it describes the Los Angeles underbelly.
Melissa Vasquez
very interesting tale of a guatemalan who wants to avenge his wife and child's deaths
Maura
alright, but i feel like i've read tons of other books exactly like it.
J.M.
Not really sure why I picked this up, but I just couldn't get into it.
Isaiah Galarza
Pretty cool!!! I wonder who holds the movie rights?
John Valdez
Classic.
Novel set in the City of Angels.
Enjoyed it much.
Luke Hooper
Well written, unique revenge story.
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Héctor Tobar, now a weekly columnist for the Los Angeles Times, is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and a novelist. He is the author of Translation Nation and The Tattooed Soldier. The son of Guatemalan immigrants, he is a native of the city of Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife and three children.
More about Héctor Tobar...
The Barbarian Nurseries Translation Nation: Defining a New American Identity in the Spanish-Speaking United States Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free

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