Carmen Rodriguez came to Canada from Chile as a political exile following the August Pinochet military coup in 1973. In her writing, she explores place, language and the emotional terrain of dual geographies. Her earlier work has been the product of a bilingual, bicultural process: going back and forth between Spanish and English until she was satisfied with the end result in the two languages.

Rodriguez has dedicated a great part of her life to the field of education. She has taught adult literacy and popular education in a variety of settings, in addition to an array of subjects in the field of education itself: literacy instruction, ESL instruction, curriculum development, multicultural education and others. She is co-author (with Don Sawyer) of the Native Literary Research Project (Native Adult Education Resource Centre, Salmon Arm, 1990) and author of Educating for Change: Community-Based/Student-Centred Literacy Programming With First Nations Adults (Open Learning Agency, Burnaby, 1994/2000).

Rodriguez has taught Latin American Literature in translation at Simon Fraser University. She served on The Writers' Union of Canada's National Council and acted as Chair or Co-Chair of the Union's Racial Minority Writers Committee and Social Justice Taskforce. In addition to her work as a Vancouver correspondent for Radio Canada International since 1990, she was a founding member of the bilingual (Spanish-English) Latin American women's magazine AQUELARRE, a quarterly published in Vancouver between 1988 and 1997. She is not to be confused with the Chilean-born playwright Carmen Aguirre who also lives in Vancouver.

Her powerful novel Retribution (Women's Press 2011) takes the form of three memoirs by a daughter, mother and grandmother. Whereas the grandmother Soledad was once convinced to vote for a right-wing candidate in Chile, her daughter Sol joined the resistance movement against the dictator Pinochet and was tortured for nine months. The threesome arrives in Vancouver in 1974 as refugees. Sol's child Tania is a newborn. The grandmother recalls:

"As much as I wanted to pretend that I didn't care about Chile anymore, it didn't take me long to realize that when you leave your country behind, you don't really leave your country behind. It haunts you, it teases you, it plays tricks on you; it shows up at every corner, in every street; in the wind, in the clouds. It doesn't leave you alone. Your past plays in your head over and over again, like a movie that you already know by heart, but cannot stop watching."

During their first weeks at the Cove Motor Inn in English Bay, a one-star transit hotel operated by the Canadian government, her daughter Sol tells her, "The baby's father is my torturer." (Rodriguez has already alerted the reader to this possibility on the opening page of the book.) Soledad, the grandmother, explodes with hatred:

"I hated Pinochet. I hated my son's murderer. I hated my sister for having turned my daughter in. I hated my daughter's torturer. I hated my daughter for giving birth to the torturer's baby and I hated baby Tania. But above all I hated myself for not having known to live my life to the fullest when I was young; for not having accepted and loved my son for who he was; for having disapproved of my children's political views; for not having appreciated what I had. I hated myself for being alive and not having the guts to end it all and leave this world once and for all."

The grandmother rallies herself and becomes involved in the solidarity movement of Chilean exiles and refugees in Vancouver, but the title Retribution arises from the tortured daughter Sol's resolve to take revenge by breaking the legacy of cruelty and hate, by re-inventing love.

Carmen Rodriguez's novel Retribution was runner-up for best book in the popular fiction category of the International Latino Book Awards.

CITY/TOWN: Vancouver

DATE OF BIRTH: June 19, 1948

PLACE OF BIRTH: Valdivia, Chile

ARRIVAL IN CANADA: August, 1974

ANCESTRAL BACKGROUND: Chilean

EMPLOYMENT OTHER THAN WRITING: Sessional Instructor, Latin American Literature in Translation (English), Simon Fraser University. Correspondent: Radio Canada International

BOOKS:

And A Body To Remember With (short stories), Vancouver, Arsenal Pulp Press, 1997

De Cuerpo Entero (Spanish version of And A Body To Remember With), Santiago, Editorial Los Andes, 1997

Guerra Prolongada/Protracted War (bilingual Spanish-English poetry), Toronto, Women's Press, 1992

Retribution (Women's Press 2011)

AWARDS:
Premio Municipal de Literatura, Mencion Honrosa, Santiago, Chile, 1998; Mencion - Revista Paula short story competition for the story "Acuarela", Santiago, 1973; Runner-up, Vancouver Book Award, for short story collection De Cuerpo Entero, 1998

[BCBW 2011] "Chilean"