In the Country We Love by Diane Guerrero

Posted April 22, 2016 by Taryn in Reviews / 0 Comments

I received this book for free from Henry Holt and Company, LibraryThing Early Reviewers in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

In the Country We Love by Diane GuerreroIn the Country We Love by Diane Guerrero
Published by Henry Holt and Company on May 3rd 2016
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Personal Memoirs, Cultural Heritage, Social Science, Emigration & Immigration
Pages: 272
Source: Henry Holt and Company, LibraryThing Early Reviewers
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Heart-breaking and politically relevant memoir with an authentic voice. Diane Guerrero, actress in the popular TV shows Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin, tells the story of her parents’ deportation and the devastating effect it had on all of their lives. It reveals the circumstances that many undocumented immigrants live with on a daily basis. This title will be released on May 3, 2016.

Human beings are not categorically bad because of their mistakes. They can learn from their errors and get back on track. No one should be forever written off because of one part of his or her history.

Diane Guerrero was only fourteen years old when she walked into an empty house and discovered her parents were detained for deportation. Diane, an American citizen, was left to fend for herself and no government official ever contacted her. With the help of friends, she was able to continue her education in the United States, but she never saw her parents on US soil again. After years of secrecy, even from some of those closest to her, Diane went public with her family’s story in an LA Times op-ed on November 14, 2014. She also appeared on CNN.

Each chapter begins with a large photograph and I really liked that the photos were interspersed with the story, rather than gathered in the middle or at the end. It is more impactful to see the images when they are most relevant. The writing style is casual and conversational. There is slang and textspeak scattered throughout the text. I have complained about slang usage other books, but that is usually in the case of an author imitating someone else’s voice. In this book, I thought it helped show Diane’s personality and made her voice more authentic. I also think it makes it more accessible to a wider audience. Plus, if there is ever a moment to use ‘OMG’, meeting a president would be it! However, I was glad the textspeak was used sparingly. Diane writes with great compassion and perspective when discussing her family, friends, and former classmates. The central focus of this book is the plight of undocumented immigrants, but she also touches on the impact that media portrayals of race have on self-esteem and the hopelessness inherent in the poverty cycle.

Life does that to us. Deep down, we know what may come to pass, but we hope that what we dread can be permanently put off. We convince ourselves it may never occur, because if it were going to, it would’ve already. Then without warning, reality socks us in the face and we realize how foolish it was to believe we’d been spared. And however many years we spent agonizing about what tragedy may come, the sting is no less severe when it does.

Diane’s parents and their young son left Columbia for the United States to escape political instability and to start a better life. Five years after their arrival, Diane was born. She grew up in an economically disadvantaged Boston neighborhood with strong community bonds. She grew up with a lot of love and her parents did the best they could to give their children a good life, but the heavy weight of secrecy and the fear of deportation always lingered overhead. Her parents worked hard and made attempts to become legal citizens, but it is a long, arduous process and there were many insurmountable obstacles. The prospect of doing something that would catch the eye of the authorities made it a scary process to even begin. One of the most heartbreaking sections in the book involved people who make careers out of taking advantage of undocumented immigrant’s hopes to become legal citizens and their inability to report crimes. I also really felt for her brother Eric, who was caught up in a difficult situation that was not of his choosing.

The day you finally start dealing with your past is the day you stop dragging into the present.

It is difficult to read about any child going through what Diane went through when she was separated from her parents. The fear and sadness described in the chapters surrounding her parents’ deportation was palpable. She describes the loneliness of living like a guest and the overwhelming pressure of having to become an adult at such a young age. A sense of hopelessness eventually creeps in and she cast aside dreams of success in the entertainment industry. The stress of everything that had happened and the lack of outlet eventually became too much to bear. She speaks honestly about her battle with severe depression during college.

Our passions don’t just compel us, they can also heal us.

Reentry into creative pursuits gave Diane solid footing during her recovery. Since her career is just beginning and the central focus of the book is her personal story, there are only a few chapters about the entertainment industry. She writes about a few of her experiences on the sets of Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin. It is especially funny to read about what she thought OITNB was when she auditioned, versus the award-winning phenomena it became! However, the specter of her parent’s absence always lingers in the background. She reveals the emotional blocks she had to overcome to make peace with the past and how her experiences made her a more empathetic actress. Her success in the entertainment industry also gave her a greater platform to help others.

Any cause worth taking up requires courage. And you can’t wait until you’re feeling bold to act; if we did, most of us would never move a toe. You have a step out in spite of the fact that you feel like the world’s biggest scaredy-cat. And I often do.

The short “Call to Action” chapter at the end is the only part of the book that is overtly political and it applies her individual story to the national scale. She discusses the contributions that immigrants make to society, as well as the impracticalities of building walls at the border and mass deportations. She emphasizes the importance of voting and writing elected officials.

We don’t do all of our growing up between birth and adolescence or even our twenties. If we’re fortunate, we never stop.

This is one woman’s story, but it is a story shared by many. I really admired Diane’s strength, determination, and honesty. Even if a person disagrees with Diane’s conclusions, an open-minded reading of her book could go a long way towards toning down the dehumanizing rhetoric directed towards immigrants. It is one of my favorite celebrity memoirs and I’m definitely a fan for life now! I recommend it, especially those interested in reading about the human side of immigration issues. This book deals with some difficult issues, but I think it could be inspiring and informative for older teens as well. If the topic of this book interests you, I recommend the fictional book The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez.

I received this book from the LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer’s program, in exchange for an honest review.


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