Friday, June 3, 2016

In the Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero

Celebrity memoirs can be hit or miss with me. I have found that unless they are either a) part of a fandom I ardently worship, b) have a story to tell that I can personally relate to, or c) just dishing out some A+ gossip, I have difficulty finishing them.

IN THE COUNTRY WE LOVE is about Diane Guerrero's childhood. She grew up in numerous poor neighborhoods with her Colombian parents, both of whom were illegal immigrants. One day, when she was 14, she came home to find that both of them had been taken away without notice, leaving her behind.

Guerrero writes about her depression, and how this disruption in her life damaged not just her relationship with her parents, but many of her personal relationships to come. She talks about self-harm, her frustration with being poor, and the heartbreak of watching her parents apply again and again for citizenship, only to be taken advantage of by conmen or repeatedly denied.

The end of the book is a bit more heartening. She gets into acting and writes about how she received bit (but recurring) parts on both Orange Is the New Black and Jane the Virgin. She ended up writing a cathartic op-ed piece about immigration that drew the attention of the president himself, and ended up becoming rather vocal on her pro-immigration policies and the benefits immigrants have to offer.

There are two authors listed in the back of this book, so I am guessing that means that Guerrero was working with a ghost-writer or a co-writer - not an uncommon phenomenon with celebrity memoirs. I do think that both authors did a good job creating a single "voice" that sounds genuine and authentic. I sympathized with Guerrero's plights, even though I couldn't relate to them. It was amazing how much she was forced to endure before making a name for herself. I watched one of the interviews she gave and it was very emotional; she is obviously very passionate about what she believes.

The only chapter that doesn't really jibe with the rest is the last chapter, which outlines Guerrero's thoughts on immigration, closing with tools for immigrants to seek out help or make their voices heard. Before this chapter, IN THE COUNTRY WE LOVE wasn't very political, so this 180 was a bit of a surprise, and didn't really fit with the rest of the book. I also think that her views will likely alienate her from a lot of readers who might not believe every person who wants to come to the U.S. should be let in, even if they don't subscribe to the Great Wall of America plan of the hard right.

This was decent. I'm not sure I would purchase it myself, but I was very grateful to receive the opportunity to read it from Netgalley and the publisher. I'm also glad to see an alternative view on immigration being posted by a person of color to contrast the many (and there are many) anti-immigration and/or xenophobic views that are spewing all over the internet right now. I may not agree with some of what she says, but I value her arguments and what she is trying to represent.

2.5 out of 5 stars.

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