Lori: My Daughter, Wrongfully Imprisoned in Peru– Rhoda Berenson


Shoutout to my mom, Joanne, for letting me borrow this book. Too bad neither of us were impressed. 

For my next South American country, I read Lori: My Daughter Wrongfully imprisoned in Peru. The book can be easily summarized by title. The author’s daughter is accused of aiding a terrorist group in Peru (MRTA), and is arrested and jailed. This book follows her mother, (and daughter to some extent) through the first few years of capture, trials, appeals, and many, many prison visits. (Note: Later on, Lori does admit to knowing members of MRTA but had no idea about their terrorist plans and amassing of weapons in the apartment upstairs.)

I don’t have much to say about this book. It wasn’t a good overview of Peru. It concentrated on the negative aspects of an underdeveloped country. The writing was not great either. It was very minute by minute and repetitive. Entire sections could have been condensed into a paragraph. Readers don’t care about the exact outfit your daughter was wearing every time you visited. We want to know the emotions behind these visits. I felt like the mother (and Lori too) were so positive. Annoyingly positive. Like you’re facing life in prison in another country without a fair trial and you’re not really displaying any negative emotions. It made it hard to connect to the characters. 

I will say this as a continuation of a theme I discussed in my Armenia post. Where is the US Government’s loyalty? This book is riddled with examples of the US acting beholden to a foreign power. It’s fucked up. I was scribbling down quotes and names of politicians who made fake promises, flipped, or simply wouldn’t do their due diligence in Lori’s case. Two books in a row have made me question part of my faith in the US government. 

Lori Berenson was arrested in 1995. Her mother, Rhoda, published this book in 2000. That meant there was 18 years of updates I needed to catch up on. So, I looked into what happened after the book’s ending. in 2010, Lori was released from prison but was forced to finish a “house arrest” by staying in Peru. In 2015, she was officially released and left for New York with her son. 

Would I recommend this book? No. There is definitely a better book out there. I do think the story of Lori Berenson is interesting, but I think there are other sources to read that would fulfill the wondering mind. I’ve included two of them in the links tab. (Interestingly enough, the New York Times piece paints a different picture of Lori than the her mother’s book.) Does this make me want to visit Peru? Well, you’d think some unfair story like this would make me not want to go, but it had no impact. I did look up some of the landscapes that were briefly described by Berenson, and those make me want to visit.

Does anyone have any better suggestions on books about Peru? Please let me know! 🙂

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