Like other people have said in their reviews, this is an interesting story, a story that should be told, but unfortunately the book itself just isn’t very well written. It felt underdeveloped and amateurish, even with the co-author. (It also bothered me that the publishing company/editor couldn’t bother to include accents and tildes when the author used Spanish, but that’s not the author’s fault and didn’t really affect my rating; I just wanted to complain about it. Esta and está are two very different words!) I think Guerrero would have been better off hiring someone else to write about her life for her. Here, the first person perspective didn’t really make it worth it, at least for me.
I first became aware of Diane Guerrero on Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, which I loved in its first season. Maritza was one of my favorite characters. I don’t often look into the personal lives and histories of actors because it seems irrelevant to me, so I had no idea that Guerrero’s parents had been deported when she was fourteen, leaving her alone in the country and at the mercy of family friends. ICE and immigration and child protection services completely let her slip through the cracks, and she essentially had to become her own parent at that point.
I had a hard time with this book when she was going into so much detail about her childhood. Some of it was relevant to the point of the book, but a lot of it was just extraneous detail and she didn’t quite know how to make it interesting. Once you reach the point where her parents were deported, a lot of the irrelevant details stopped, because her life changed so drastically and everything in it was affected. She shares a bit what it was like hiding from almost everyone what had happened, meeting white people at her privileged college that had no idea what was going on in their very own city, and what it’s actually like to be the child of undocumented immigrants. (Immigrants who tried for years to get citizenship, but were scammed by two different lawyers who sapped them for money and then vanished. Apparently this is a common thing people do, and it’s disgusting.)
She shares how the separation affected her mental health, her schoolwork, her outlook on life and her job prospects. How it affected her family. Her parents separated due to the stress, and she became estranged from them. The pressures put on her as the only citizen in her family, and how she felt it was her responsibility to succeed and help her parents. I really felt for her, and admire the work she does now in helping other immigrant families. I just wish somebody else had told this story for her, because there’s so much material to work with here, and she doesn’t do it as much justice as a more talented writer could have.
I do still recommend this one. It was an easy read. It might also play better on audio; it’s pretty conversational.
[2.5 stars, rounded up]
Read Harder Challenge 2021: Read a memoir by a Latinx author.