Gaspar Gonzalez is an Emmy-award-winning documentary filmmaker who holds a PhD in American Studies from Yale. His brother, Nelson Ramirez, died in Vietnam in May 1968 about the time that Gaspar was born. He only knew his brother from occasional mentions by the family and from family photos.
The Girl in the Photo (Amazon Digital Services, 43 pp., $2.99, Kindle) is about Gaspar Gonzalez’s quest to recover his brother’s memory and to identify a girl in the family photo that adorns the book’s cover.
Gaspar Gonzalez does discover her name, Marilda Gandara. She and his brother were dressed up, posing for a prom-type photo, but no one in his family remembered who she was.
The Internet made it possible for Gaspar to locate Gandara, who is an attorney and community leader in Hartford, Connecticut, and to meet with her. The story has a happy ending, except that the brother, Nelson, still died in Vietnam.
Gaspar learns a lot about his brother and contacts soldiers Nelson served with. They are helpful and kind to him.
This small book packs a lot of punch and is well written and well researched. Gaspar Gonzalez reclaims his lost past and honors his brother by this search for the story behind the old family photo that he carried in his wallet for many years without knowing much about his brother—and nothing about the girl in the photo.
Gaspar Gonzalez solved the mystery and attained some peace of mind about the loss of his brother in a war that his family didn’t understand and avoided mentioning. The family had left Cuba for a life in the U.S. that was more secure and settled, but their son got sucked into a war that many still can’t figure out the reasons for.
It’s a puzzle that has caused me much lost sleep.
I can only imagine how a recent immigrant felt about being drafted into the Vietnam War.