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JJ Amaworo Wilson is a German-born, British-educated debut novelist. Based in the U.S., he has lived in 9 countries and visited 60. He is a prizewinning author of over 20 books about language and language learning. Damnificados is his first major fiction work. His short fiction has been published by Penguin, Johns Hopkins University Press, and myriad literary magazines in England and the U.S.

Damnificados won the 2017 Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards winner for debut fiction!

Damnificados won the 2017 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award in the Multicultural Fiction category!

JJ Amaworo Wilson has been awarded the 2016 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award in the fiction category for his novel Damnificados. The awards list is comprised of published authors from the two neighboring states recognized in several categories ranging from Anthropology to Young Readers.

Check out JJ Amaworo Wilson speaking at the SouthWest Writers on A Day with the Damned 10/1/2016

Purchasing Links

Author: JJ Amaworo Wilson
Publisher: PM Press/Spectacular Fiction
ISBN: 978-1-62963-117-2
Published: 01/2016
Format: Paperback
Size: 8x5
Page count: 288
Subjects: Fiction/Fiction-Dystopia

Damnificados is loosely based on the real-life occupation of a half-completed skyscraper in Caracas, Venezuela, the Tower of David. In this fictional version, six hundred “damnificados”—vagabonds and misfits—take over an abandoned urban tower and set up a community complete with schools, stores, beauty salons, bakeries, and a rag-tag defensive militia. Their always heroic (and often hilarious) struggle for survival and dignity pits them against corrupt police, the brutal military, and the tyrannical “owners.”

Taking place in an unnamed country at an unspecified time, the novel has elements of magical realism: avenging wolves, biblical floods, massacres involving multilingual ghosts, arrow showers falling to the tune of Beethoven’s Ninth, and a trash truck acting as a Trojan horse. The ghosts and miracles woven into the narrative are part of a richly imagined world in which the laws of nature are constantly stretched and the past is always present.


“Should be read by every politician and rich bastard and then force-fed to them—literally, page by page.”
—Jimmy Santiago Baca, author of A Place to Stand

“Two-headed beasts, biblical floods, dragonflies to the rescue—magical realism threads through this authentic and compelling struggle of men and women—the damnificados—to make a home for themselves against all odds. Into this modern, urban, politically familiar landscape of the ‘have-nots’ versus the ‘haves,’ Amaworo Wilson introduces archetypes of hope and redemption that are also deeply familiar—true love, vision quests, the hero’s journey, even the remote possibility of a happy ending. These characters, this place, this dream will stay with you long after you’ve put this book down.”
—Sharman Apt Russell, author of Hunger

“Only a rare and special talent can take contemporary realities—sad, joyful, infuriating, inspiring—and spin them into legend. In a narrative rich in danger, adventure, humor, romance, and risk, JJ Amaworo Wilson raises essential questions without succumbing to earnestness or didacticism.”
—Diane Lefer, author of Confessions of a Carnivore

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What Others are Saying



damificadosDamnificados: A Review
by Gladys Marivat
Le Monde
January 2019

"Extraordinary ... Damnificados disorients the reader by invoking biblical, mythological, epic and real-life tales in a style that is immediately gripping ... [T]here are so many genres to which JJ Amaworo Wilson gives new life in what reads like an homage to the outsiders of all places and periods ... wonderful and magical."

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damificadosDamnificados: A Review
by Yang Jing
World Literature Today

Damnificados is a great read. Two-headed beasts, biblical floods, dragonflies to the rescue, massacres involving multilingual ghosts, and a trash truck acting as a Trojan horse—magical realism threads through this very human struggle. Wilson introduces archetypes of hope and redemption that are also deeply familiar—true love, vision quests, the hero’s journey, even the possibility of a happy ending. In this sense, the novel can also be read as documentary literature, which illustrates and predicts that social justice will prevail in the end.

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damificadosDamnificados: A Review
by Dave Sewell
Socialist Worker

Debut novelist JJ Amaworo Wilson’s magical realist fable celebrates the ingenuity, tenacity and resistance of slum-dwellers.

It is the tale of an abandoned skyscaper that’s occupied, revived and defended by a ragtag army of the “damnificados”—the casualties.

To make the trash of the city a home, they take on everything from gangster politicians to a biblical flood and a two-headed wolf...

damificadosDamnificados: A Review
by Kate MacDonald
March 24th, 2106

The carefully managed outbreaks of magical realism are what I like best about J J Amaworo Wilson’s Damnificados. Wilson’s skills as a novelist are impressive, and his scope in Damnificados is global: his vision of a Latin American city that casually and fleetingly connects to Africa and Japan makes this novel a world myth with a mildly fantastical dystopian setting. It’s set in a vast tower block in an unnamed Spanish-speaking city of favelas and spiralling shanty-towns. The tower is inconveniently inhabited by wolves when a travelling group of hundreds of the homeless underclasses need it as a refuge and a home.

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damificadosDamnificados: A Review
by Pallas Gates McCorquodale
Foreward Reviews
February 29th, 2016

When floods and plagues of biblical proportion threaten the sanctity of their home, the damnificados look to Nacho for deliverance. So begins a David and Goliath battle rife with fantastical creatures. Brujas, two headed wolves, and übermosquitos are all mixed into what becomes a veritable chronicle of the “trash wars,” fought over generations by a colorful mix of characters including German twins Hans and Dieter, a Japanese warrior known as the Chinaman, a fiery former beauty queen, and Nacho himself. Thoughtful and intense, but with a core of humility and self-awareness, Damnificados is an extraordinary, magical, inspiring tale of community and conscience.

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damificadosDamnificados: A Review
by Portia Kapraun
Library Journal

January 2016

Crippled Nacho Morales leads a group of misfits and outcasts in taking over an abandoned skyscraper in an unnamed Latin American city. Assisted by lifelong friend the Chinaman, who is as big and strong as he is small and puny, Nacho defends their hold on the building against a variety of gangs, military forces, and corrupt politicians. Throughout their struggles, the people begin to forge a life out of a land best known for the bloody Trash Wars that took place years before. Soon the occupants have established a successful bakery, beauty salon, schools, and other businesses within the building.

VERDICT Inspired by the 2007 occupation of a skyscraper in Caracas, Venezuela, Wilson's debut novel of magic realism is a modern retelling of the classic hero's journey, complete with a two-headed beast, a flood of biblical proportion, miraculous healing, and deus ex machina. The author's elegant language makes even the darkest of situations beautiful. Sure to attract readers who enjoy a touch of magic mixed in with their tales of social justice.

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damificadosDamnificados: A Review
by Ken Finton
January 21st, 2016

Wilson’s novel is an invigorating tale about human beings clinging by their fingertips not only to a sustainable way of life, but to their very dignity, and shouting back at the wealthy with what breath they have, proclaiming they will not be ignored or silently pushed aside. The novel is delightfully imaginative and cuttingly insightful. If Gabriel García Márquez wrote a politically-revolutionary novel with dystopian overtones and published it through an indie press, it would be something like this. That is a compliment. Damnificados is engaging, provocative, and wholly original.

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damificadosDamnificados: A Review
By Sam Sacks
Wall Steet Journal
December 4th, 2015

The unlikely gathering in J.J. Amaworo Wilson's gonzo speculative novel "Damnificados" (PM Press, 274 pages, $15.95) is of hundreds of mendicant "nonpeople" who have occupied an abandoned skyscraper. The premise comes from the amazing reports out of Caracas, Venezuela, of an unfinished office tower taken over by squatters. But in Mr. Wilson's fantastical version, set in the invented slum of Faveleda, the poor are as diverse and polyglot as the crew of Melville's whaling ship: "A salmagundi of every street dog that ever raised its nose and sniffed the wind: the shoeshine boys, the hookers, the addicted and the lame. They come in rags, burqas, combat pants, in patchwork suits and miniskirts. Stetsons, pork pie hats, bowlers, beanies, turbans, pakols and patkas."

The captain of this 60-story vessel is a soft-spoken man namedNacho Morales, crippled from a childhood illness, who helps the community set up schools and shops. Nacho's greatest test arrives when the villainous businessman who owns the tower sends an army to reclaim it. Mr. Wilson, whose influences run from sci-fi toSteinbeck, tells his underdog story with lusty energy, filling it with all manner of portents and miracles, "like something out of the Bible," as one onlooker exclaims. Here be two-headed wolves, megalithic crocodiles and life-saving dragonflies. And the final battle between the army and the unarmed but united damnificados is the stuff of legend.

damificadosDamnificados: A Review
by Melinda
The Discerning Reader
January 11th, 2016

Damificados is full of wonderful magical realism, motley characters you become attached to, a narrative capturing your attention, sturdy writing. Imaginative and creative read.

Wilson demonstrates inventiveness with his dynamic characters. Magical realism plays an important part, as well as smart satire in the very clever narrative providing twists and turns when least expected – two-headed wolves, rescuing dragonflies, floods. Belonging, loss and love play a vital part among the colorful cast, the damificados might be fractured, certainly not broken.

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damificados16 Books To Start 2016 Right: Damnificados
O Magazine
December 2015

A community of indigents attempting to settle in an unfinished skyscraper lock horns with the wealthy and powerful in this willfully strange debut novel. The crippled walk, two-headed beasts emerge from the gloom, and the earth swallows armies whole in a climax that's an apocalyptic revenge fantasy. 

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damificadosDamnificados: A Review
By Diane Lefer
LA Progressive
December 4th, 2015

“So here’s the advance word on some extraordinary fiction. Welcome to a world of two-headed wolves where people go to war over trash and thousands of the desperate move into an unfinished skyscraper tower built on a base of compacted garbage. The squatters learn “how to build a community from this upright tomb” in defiance of the most violent, ruthless, politically connected family imaginable. The Torres family, with control of the Army, the police, and the government, continues to lay claim to the Tower...”

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damificadosDamnificados: A Review
By Beate Sigriddalighter
Desert Exposure
October 2015

“…The gist of the story is this: A band of have-nots make a derelict tower on a landfill and surrounded by trash, marginally habitable. No sooner do they succeed, than the haves naturally covet the previously abadonded property again. Add to that a natural disaster, and you end up with the ceaseless drama of precarious survival.

Though the novel is not exactly a cliff hanger - reading it I found myself more floating above the edge of the cliff rather than hanging on to it breathlessly - this is one of the rare books that I treasured so much that I looked forward to getting back to it each time I had a chance. Life being what it is, I couldn’t read 24/7, but I found myself stealing snippets of time from my usual pursuits to read just one more section, just one more chapter…”

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