Gitmo meets Fashion Week post-9/11

From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant
By Alex Gilvarry
Penguin Group
Out by January 9, 2012

Manhattan and Guantanamo blend nicely, and humorously, in this debut novel by Staten Island-born FilAm writer Alex Gilvarry.

“From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant” fuses the themes of fashion and terrorism through the eyes of Filipino designer Boyet Hernandez, a newcomer to New York. With the financial backing of a Pakistani businessman, Boy is set to mount a fashion show at Bryant Park when Homeland Security agents swoop down on his apartment in the middle of the night and whisk him into custody.

From fashion designer to Detainee 227, Boy becomes a terror suspect via his connection with Ahmed Qureshi, a Pakistani bomb maker indicted for acts of terror.

“Stupid me. Filipino by birth, fashion designer by trade, terrorist by association,” says Boy, the novel’s part-sympathetic, part-snarky storyteller.

The novel zigs and zags between Gitmo grilling and moneyed Manhattan with flashbacks of Boy’s erstwhile life as a women’s wear designer. There is a $75K start-up cash for his Fashion Week show, courtesy of Qureshi, a loft with a view of the East River for his studio, and the opportunity of a lifetime to join the league of Malandrino, Galliano and McQueen.

In Guantanamo, he finds company with avidly prayerful Muslim men, some of whom call him a “foggot.”

“Five times a day they pray. As soon as the sun rises, imagine! During prayer time I’ll often sit up in bed, shut my eyes and transport myself back to my former life. a fall fashion week in New York City. The white tents laid out across the lawn of Bryant Park…Around my neck, a VIP pass: DESIGNER.”

Between these two worlds, the novel is all showy with color and detail and lots of meandering humor.

“According to the ‘New York Post,’ where I once graced the columns of Page Six — my name in bold next to Zac Posen and Stella McCartney — I’m the fashion terrorist. An emigre candy ass turned hater of Americans and financier of terror.”

Alex Gilvarry. Photo by Beowulf Sheehan

Reality is, Gilvarry is neither fashionista nor terorista. The author is the founding editor of the book review website Totenville Review, a Norman Mailer fellow and most recently a novelist of a “coming to New York” story, according to Booklist.

The fashion lore came by way of his girlfriend, a model. The relationship provided his entry into the world of fashion shows and parties. Guantanamo he picked up by way of books, radio and newspaper reports.

“Men imprisoned without due process. This really struck a chord with me to the point of obsession,” he said in a Q-A by Penguin Group. “So when I started writing the novel, the two worlds met in my mind and somehow they made sense to me.”

He made sure that Boy, the narrator, is a Filipino because he wanted to write about what America means to a Filipino immigrant.

“I wanted to write about the Philippines, where my mother is from…because the Philippines has a lot to do with America,” said Gilvarry. — Cristina DC Pastor


  1. Clemente wrote:

    Added, I love your blog! 🙂

  2. Utter Finkelman wrote:

    Thanks for a good book review.

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