In the Country We Love: My Family Divided
Diane Guerrero with Michelle Burford
Published May 3, 2016
Why I read it: I have no shame in admitting that I have a very real love for trashy television. One of my current favorites (the first season of which I binge-watched when my baby was a newborn and doing nothing but nursing and sleeping all day long) is Jane the Virgin, a super campy telenovela about a virgin who was mistakenly artificially inseminated:
Jane’s best friend is played by the funny and feisty Diane Guerrero, who also plays Maritza (“If you want more pizza, vote for Maritza.”) on Orange Is the New Black:
This book is Guerrero’s memoir. And, although I have made it very clear that I am NOT a memoir fan (especially a memoir written by a celeb who needs the help of a professional writer), her story is unique enough that I thought it might make for interesting reading.
What it’s about: When Guerrero was fourteen, she got home from school one evening to find that her parents were gone. They had been taken by immigration officers. Here she is on CNN discussing her story:
The book tells her story (which she first shared publicly in this op-ed that ran in the LA Times in 2014): her childhood, the deportations, her bouts of depression (including honest stories about her suicidal thoughts and her success in getting through a particularly bad spell with the help of an excellent therapist), her road to becoming a successful actress, and her fight for immigration reform with organizations like Immigrant Legal Resource Center and Mi Familia Vota.
This book is, by no means, objectively good. The writing is ridiculously conversational and doesn’t flow well, I noticed a couple of sloppy anachronisms in her retelling of past events, and some of her anecdotes are a bit too sensationalized (like her cutting). But I’m giving it a pretty good rating for a few reasons.
First of all, I have to acknowledge that I am not the target audience. The target audience is younger (and, I am loathe to admit, hipper). So, the super-conversational, slangy writing, which was kind of grating to me, would likely appeal to the younger set. An example:
The next Halloween at a church costume contest, I expanded my BFF circle by one. “Nice tutu,” I said to this girl named Sabrina, who’d shown up wearing the same white ballerina outfit I had on; I had a total “bitch stole my look” moment . . . like hell, this little girl is not going to out ballerina me! I am not the one.
Secondly, Guerrero is using this book and her celebrity as a platform for immigration reform. And I have to applaud that. If young people read this book because they like Guerrero’s party-girl character on Jane the Virgin and learn a thing or two about undocumented immigrants and deportation, then I am all for it. The book, in addition to telling Guerrero’s personal story, includes some good facts and statistics, like these:
My story is heartbreakingly common. There are more than eleven million undocumented immigrants in America, and every day an average of seventeen children are placed in state care after their parents are detained and deported, according to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Those numbers don’t take into account the scores of others who, like me, simply fell through the bureaucratic cracks. After my parents were snatched away, no government official checked up on me. No one seemed to care or even notice that I was on my own.
And Guerrero does not shy away from being outright political. She uses the end of her book as a call to action:
You can take action by registering to vote, if you’re not signed up already. Voter information is available at MiFamiliaVota.org. Then, vote on November 8, 2016, and urge your friends and family to turn up and cast their votes as well. I stand with actress America Ferrera, who penned an open letter to Donald Trump that ran in the Huffington Post: “Thank you for reminding us not to sit complacently at home on election day, but to run to the polls and proclaim there is no place for your brand of racial politicking in our government,” she wrote.
I can get behind anyone who decries Trump’s openly racist stands on immigration.
So, while this book wasn’t written for me, I still appreciate it. I think it has the potential to have a positive impact on teens and twenty-somethings. And for that, it gets a few bonus points from me.
(And, in case you’re wondering . . . without this boost, I would probably give it a 2.5. It’s a pretty compelling personal story and an easy read that’s not very well written and has a little too much filler.)
Want to read along with me? Reviews of these books are coming soon:
- Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave: This is the latest by the author of the fantastic Little Bee. It was an Amazon Best Book of the Month, an Indie Next List pick, and a LibraryReads List selection for May 2016.
The Girls by Emma Cline: This is one of the books of the summer. ALL the hype. It was an Amazon Best Book of the Month and the #1 Indie Next List pick for June and on a bunch of best-of summer reading lists (including Publishers Weekly’s list of Best Summer Books 2016).