Monday, May 30, 2016

In the Country We Love: My Family Divided

Diane Guerrero is one of those actresses who so often seem to come out of nowhere to claim a recurring roll in what turns out to be an important television series (in Guerrero’s case, the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black).  But as is usually the case, nothing could be farther from the truth about Guerrero’s rise to stardom than how quickly she seems to have achieved it.  Her story is all the more remarkable because when Guerrero was just fourteen years old, she came home from school one afternoon to find that her Colombian parents, both of whom were in the country illegally, had been arrested and were being held for deportation back to Colombia.  Rather astonishingly, the fourteen-year-old American born citizen slipped through the bureaucratic cracks of immigration officials, and was forced to turn to family and friends for immediate survival.  Guerrero’s new memoir, In the Country We Love: My Family Divided, tells her story.

Diane Guerrero spent her childhood in Boston along with a brother ten years older than her and their parents.  But there was a big difference between the little girl and the rest of her family: she was a natural-born United States citizen and the others (all born in Colombia) were in this country illegally.   By the afternoon on which her parents were snatched from her, her brother had already been deported, and Diane was no stranger to the possibility that the same could happen to her parents.  Still, when it finally did happen, neither Diane nor her parents were emotionally prepared for what they were about to face. 

Diane Guerrero 
Because she was such a bright and musically talented high school student, Guerrero was accepted into one of Boston’s prestigious high schools for the performing arts where she prepared herself for a stage and film career.  It was not easy, but despite setbacks and the poor personal decisions she sometimes made, Guerrero managed to maintain contact with her parents (they split after being deported) and was finally able to overcome her feelings of having been abandoned by them.  She still dreams of finding a way to return them legally to the United States, “the country they love.”

In the Country We Love puts faces and names to three of the supposedly eleven million illegal immigrants currently living in the United States.  As such, it packs a strong emotional punch.  Unfortunately, the extremely one-sided pro-immigration argument presented in the book’s final twenty or so pages somewhat blunts that impact by ignoring the broader picture of an open border policy that allows almost unlimited illegal immigration into this country.  Guerrero’s approach comes across as both heavy-handed and close-minded, making it way too easy for her critics to counter her pro-immigration arguments  – and that’s a shame.    

(Review Copy provided by Publisher)

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