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From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Alex Gilvarry
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $10.99
You Save: $5.01 (31%)
Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

Unveiling two of America's most illusory realms—high fashion and Homeland Security—Alex Gilvarry's widely acclaimed first novel is the story of designer Boy Hernandez: Filipino immigrant, New York glamour junkie, Guantánamo detainee. Locked away indefinitely and accused of being linked to a terrorist plot, Boy prepares for the tribunal of his life with this intimate confession, a dazzling swirl of soirees, runways, and hipster romance that charts one small man's pursuit of the big American dream—even as the present nightmare of detainment chisels away at his vital wit and chutzpah. From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant is funny, wise, and beguiling, a Kafkaesque tale for our strange times.

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Editorial Reviews


***A New York Times Editors' Choice Pick***

“Delicious . . . A left-handed love letter to America.” —Daniel Asa Rose, The New York Times Book Review

“Lively . . . Hilarious . . . [A] whirligig of a book [that] draws some striking parallels between the way we mythologize stars and the way we look at terrorists. . . . From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant slices through these tropes, using Boy’s pure improbability as the skewering blade.” —John Freeman, Boston Globe

“In this funny debut, flashy Filipino fashion designer Boy Hernandez sees his American dream become a nightmare when he’s ensnared in a terrorist plot and shipped to Guantanamo. Gilvarry nails the couture scene, but Boy’s rough journey from Manolo to Gitmo is no joke.” —Andrew Abrahams, People

“It’s rare for a novel to tread so fearlessly into the political and yet to emerge so deeply funny and humane. Gilvarry is a young talent on the rise. Watch him gallop through the mess we’ve made of our civilization with style and panache.” —Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story and Absurdistan

“The deepest intelligence is poetic, incisive and inordinately funny. Heads up, folks. Alex Gilvarry just walked through the door.” —Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin and Zoli

“Like 30 Rock at its most gleefully savage . . . [This] cocktail of themes—immigrant on the make, post-9/11 burlesque, sybaritic send-up of fashion and hipster Brooklyn—goes down smoothly because Gilvarry writes with authority, if often with tongue firmly in cheek . . . It’s not false praise to say that From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant anticipates our reality.” —Jacob Silverman, The Daily Beast

“From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant is sharply written and wryly witty, touching on the sensitivities and paranoia of post-9/11 America. . . . Combining a Kafkaesque hero with a captivating “coming to New York” story, Gilvarry’s debut is a timely and touching triumph.” Stephanie Turza, Booklist

“One of the best celebrations and condemnations of American fear and ambition since Bellow's Augie March was doing the celebrating and condemning.” —Brock Clarke, author of Exley and An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England

“Gracefully tackles politically charged subject matter . . . with wit and compassion . . . An engaging victim of uncertain times, [here’s] a protagonist who will appeal to readers of all political persuasions.” —Publishers Weekly

“This is a sly, witty novel. You'll be quoting lines from it to your friends.” —David Bezmozgis, author of The Free World

“Finally, a young American novelist who has the guts to confront the absurdity of the last decade. Gilvarry has given us a sly, hilarious, and wickedly insightful book about living in the United States (or trying to live in the U.S.) in the aftermath of September 11th. Fashion, terrorism, New York and Guantanamo Bay: in the hands of Gilvarry, hilarity ensues. A brilliant debut.” —Michael Hastings, author of “The Runaway General” (Rolling Stone) and The Operators

“Original, smart, and incisive . . . Part manifesto, part immigrant love story, part satire, part tragedy . . . [and] eminently readable.” —Roxane Gay, The Rumpus

“A smart, funny novel with political undertones that will also be particularly enjoyable for those with an interest in fashion . . . [Gilvarry’s] style and dark humor are subtle and witty . . . The events that unfold are equally disturbing and entertaining.” —Shaunna E. Hunter, Library Journal

“A talented writer and observer . . . [Gilvarry] skillfully captures the frenetic world of striving designers.” —Kirkus

 “Captivating . . . evocative.” —

“Such a blast… Quick, witty and hilarious.” —Meredith Turits,

 “Deadly serious, laugh-out-loud funny…A sparkling onion of a book.” —Carlo Wolff, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

 “A unique satire of the topsy-turvy times immediately following the September 11th attacks . . . . which cleverly entwines the seemingly disparate fictional worlds [of] politics and fashion.” —The Economist’s Prospero blog

“A fabulous and poignant read….Gilvarry’s prose is both conversational and confessional, hitting all the right notes in this bittersweet rendering of the American Dream gone tragically awry.” —Nicole, Linus's Blanket

“Alternately amusing and chilling. The author showcases his gift for comedic writing, while simultaneously allowing the serious themes of the story to surface and take root.” —Rege Behe, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

“A poignant reminder of what contemporary fiction ought to be. You will laugh, but you’ll do so nervously, sitting at the edge of your seat.” —Ana Grouverman, The Rumpus

About the Author

A native of Staten Island, Alex Gilvarry has traveled extensively in the Philippines, where his family is from. He's the editor of the Web site Tottenville Review, he has been named a Norman Mailer Fellow, and his writing has appeared in The Paris Review. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Product Details

  • File Size: 370 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0670023191
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (January 5, 2012)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #375,077 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By J. Luiz
Alex Gilvarry has written an absolutely brilliant and entertaining novel. The premise is so outlandish - he combines a humorous satirical look at the fashion industry with eye-opening insights into the way "detainees" are treated at Guantanamo Prison. It doesn't seem possible that these two storylines could be joined together in an interesting and compelling way, but Gilvarry does it. The book is written as the confession of Boy Hernandez, a Filipino immigrant with dreams of becoming a world famous designer. For most of the book, we learn of Boy's journey from a Manila fashion school, where he was the second best student to a rival who hit the big time fast, to the streets of New York, where he arrives nearly penniless but dreams of the day when he'll be able to showcase his own designs during Fashion Week at Bryant Park. When he stumbles upon a neighbor who offers to bankroll his ambitions, he willfully keeps a blind eye to that man's shady business dealings. When his new partner, Ahmed, turns out to be an arms dealer, Boy, gets caught up in the post 911 paranoia and ends up in Guantanamo and has to write this confession to try to prove his innocence. Gilvarry's portrayal of a designer's mind - the way he looks at clothes, the way he brainstorms new ideas, and all the connections he has to leverage to make inroads into the business are fascinatingly portrayed. You learn a lot about how clothing designers think and develop their ideas. And Boy's voice is so wonderfully unique. He has a humorously fragile ego - with all of his petty jealousies with his rivals are right at the forefront - but then he turns into a powerful voice of innocent victims as he describes the brutal and unforgiving ways that prisoners are treated by the government when fear provides them with the justifications to ignore the guidelines for humane treatment set forth by the Constitution and Geneva Convention. This book is so unique and so entertaining, I highly recommend it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The price of freedom (and fashion) January 15, 2012
Alex Gilvarry's debut novel, From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant has a great title and a great wacky premise. That said, I wouldn't describe this as a wacky novel at all. It's published as if the memoir of Boyet R. Hernandez, Filipino immigrant and would-be fashion designer. Boy comes to the U.S. dripping with talent and a passion for fashion. (And the ladies, BTW. Despite his slight frame and chosen occupation, he's as straight as they come, he informs the reader.)

The memoir follows Boy's fledgling career as he begins to gain traction in New York, but also as he recounts his suspicions about the pathological liar who is the primary investor in his clothing line. On the brink of breaking out, Boy's investor is arrested for a terrorist plot (He didn't suspect THAT!) and before he can say, "I love the USA," Boy is shipped off to Guantanamo. It is while imprisoned and interrogated there that the memoir was born.

As noted above, this is a premise ripe for satire. The first part of the novel, however, while slightly absurd, was mostly a surprisingly straight and engaging tale of a struggling fashion designer. I kept wondering, where's the biting political satire? I was disappointed.

What I hungered for came late in the novel (mostly in the memoir's afterword, written by one of the fictional characters), but when Gilvarry finally let loose with both barrels, he did so effectively and eloquently. The reader is left with a powerful message about justice, freedom, and their loss in post 9/11 America, ringing in his or her ears.

Score one for the debut novelist.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding novel by a talented young man. January 20, 2012
I wasn't quite sure what to make of this book after reading the description. "Fashion terrorist?" I thought. Not my normal cup of tea. But after picking up this book I couldn't put it down. It has everything I like in a book: an ability to transport me (I live in the midwest and the book is largely set in NYC and [spoiler alert!] Guantanamo), hilarious dialogue (I literally spit out the glass of milk I was drinking one time!), and a great story.

I am recommending it for my book club next month and I have a feeling it will be well received.

Alex Gilvarry, if you are reading this, consider making a book tour stop in Wichita! I think a lot of us ladies would be interested in having a discussion with you.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very clever January 5, 2012
By Rihaz
Read it last night. Its very clever and witty. I love how he has merged two topics that seemingly could not merge together. He has an original voice and even more original ideas. I highly recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant surprise! February 8, 2013
I picked this up after being seduced from the review comments in the beginning, but felt it was highly doubtful that I would enjoy a novel centered on a woman's clothing designer and the fashion world of New York City since I really have no interest in either. What a surprise! A great book! Well written, witty and clever with interesting characters and an interesting and engaging plot. Sometimes the review blurbs are true!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First it makes us laugh, then it makes us think January 18, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Boyet Hernandez has a confession to make, a deadly serious one. It is a written assignment forced on him by his federal interrogator in America`s most notorious prison in Guantanamo Bay. It is a document by which the U.S. government intends to suss out his link to a major terrorist plot. And thus Alex Gilvarry launches his instantly engaging, extremely impressive debut novel... a clever and sympathetic fish-out-of-water narrative of a young man named Boy, "Filipino by birth, fashion designer by trade, and terrorist by association."

The confession is actually more of a autobiographical document detailing the life of the story's main character, Boyet Hernandez, leading up to his capture as (B)oy, The Fashion Terrorist, and his detainment in a six-by-eight cell in a hell he calls No Man's Land. It is a bewildered yet unfiltered bildungsroman, alternately hilarious, heartbreaking, and insightful.

Boy is a young naïf, a native of the Philippines, who has lovingly adopted America and enthusiastically embraced the American dream. Arriving in New York a year after 9/11 he is determined to make America his home. But during his short time trying to make it big in New York, working with a one-pointed sense of purpose to create his unique version of the American dream - a design lined in silk and accented with sequins - Boy is assumed to be just another illegal Filipino immigrant house servant (he is a gifted artist and aspiring fashion designer), as a homosexual (he is straight), as a Muslim (he is a lapsed Roman Catholic), and worst of all - as an enemy combatant of the United States (he is truly a wannabe patriot, passionately in love with a country that will never love him back).
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Great Read, maybe. Too expensive - definitely !
I would love to read this book but will not ever pay that much for an e-book. Ridiculous for a first or fiftieth novel!
Published 20 days ago by Axel Becket
4.0 out of 5 stars A gripping story
I was totally engrossed with the plight of the hero, and his subsequent imprisonment at Quantamo. The writing is fluid, and the humor portrayed by the writer is superb. Read more
Published 10 months ago by doris fenig
4.0 out of 5 stars Grade: B+
Grade: B+

L/C Ratio: 40/60
(This means I estimate the author devoted 40% of his effort to creating a literary work of art and 60% of his effort to creating a... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Bennett Gavrish
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite of the year, so far!
This novel, about an aspiring designer who comes to New York from Manila, is both very enjoyable as a tale of the fashion world, and an enraging political challenge to the... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Ken C.
4.0 out of 5 stars Prepare To Be Charmed
Prepare to be charmed. From the moment, Boyet Hernandez hits New York City from his native Philippines in 2002, his exuberance and talent starts to propel him to the top of the... Read more
Published 24 months ago by Sandra Kirkland
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book - unique!
I bought the hardcover version. This book is FUNNY and very creative. Human pancake-breakfast menus; a Broadway terrorist melodrama; chaperoned teenage video-arcade romance. Read more
Published on March 13, 2012 by Kerry
5.0 out of 5 stars highly recommended
Yes - a satire - but also a carefully thought-out protest and reminder of the egregious underside of "Our America". Beautiful writing. Read more
Published on February 23, 2012 by E. Anderson
4.0 out of 5 stars Great mix of wit and satire!
This book is told to us memoir style, by Boyet R. Hernandez, fashion designer. Hailing from a family of doctors, Boy escapes to New York (because "one had to . . . Read more
Published on February 20, 2012 by fiction_fridaynirvana_com
5.0 out of 5 stars like a great SNL episode
This book both delighted and terrified me. Terrified because it's so real: with recent legislation that Obama signed, it COULD happen that an innocent from U.S. Read more
Published on February 9, 2012 by J. Go
5.0 out of 5 stars Completely Fabulous, Dahling!
This is a bit out of my normal range of reading, not just because I have been reading so much YA literature, but also because I generally try to avoid anything political. Read more
Published on February 7, 2012 by Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
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More About the Author

Alex Gilvarry is a native of Staten Island, New York. He contributes to NPR's All Things Considered, and his work has appeared in the Paris Review Daily, among others. Gilvarry is the founding editor of the website, Tottenville Review, a book review collaborative. He lives in Brooklyn and Cambridge, MA. Visit him at

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