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From her childhood to her adult years, Diane Guerrero takes us through the highs of her family being a cohesive unit, to one by one them being deported and her being forced to rely on friends, her parents, and a boyfriend, to be her main support system.
What would you do if your parents were taken from you at the age of 14? This is what happened to Diane. Her brother was gone due to a crime, her mother gone because she was a bit too open and out there, and her father swooped up not too long after her mom. All the while, Diane was at school and wasn’t told a thing. She just shows up to an empty home and no one coming for her.
But this story isn’t solely about the horror of coming home to no family. It is about those who “live in the shadows” and try to step into the light safely. Yet, because of scammers and fear, find themselves always on the brink of the money and time they spent being in vain. All the while their children, the ones they left their country for, get acclimated, Americanized, and become completely unprepared for the life their parents escaped from.
To the point where you feel it would be better to leave them behind than figure out a way to take them with you. Yet the damage that does, and Guerrero explains, of not having your mother or father for the important moments of your life, the days in which you are on the brink, and when you need physical reassurance and not just verbal, it can be damaging. Not just to your own person but to the relationship between you and one of the most important people in your life. And with that, you have the summary to perhaps one of the most interesting books I’ve read in a while.
I have been made aware of very few people who either were undocumented themselves or their parents were undocumented. Like with Diane, it wasn’t something they necessarily were comfortable talking about or disclosing so no questions felt appropriate to ask. So, like with Redefining Realness, while the writer was young they at the same time were able to present a wealth of knowledge. They were open, and willing, to let you peer into their private life. However, unlike Redefining Realness, which perhaps is my standard when it comes to memoirs, biographies, or whichever is appropriate, Diane takes a slightly more Wendy Williams approach.
What I mean by that is, don’t let how poise she may seem fool you, Diane got a little hood in her. She may not curse every sentence, and certainly isn’t as vulgar as Mrs. Williams’ Wendy Got The Heat, but with urban colloquialisms and a few curse words here and there, she certainly doesn’t present herself as some goody two shoes. Which for me I rather enjoyed. It makes it so, as it seems she wants, you aren’t giving her your pity as you learn about what happened to her parents. She wants to be seen as a whole person and not known for just one section of her life or perhaps one facet of it. She wants you to know the Diane who grew up in Boston with her girls, just as much as she wants you to know the girl who almost killed herself, the one who loves acting, the one who for almost a decade had a terrible relationship with her mother and more.
But what leads me to believe you should read this book is because it introduces you to the immigrant experience and Diane humanizes something which, even with the internet giving us access to both fictional and foreign stories, is still treated as something alien. Her story dealing with her parents struggle to become legal citizens, as well as her brother, exhibits a life that many likely don’t understand. Especially in times like these where it seems anti-immigrant sentiment is a major part of the political conversation. Add in her rarely spoken point of view, of the citizen whose family are undocumented immigrants, and you have quite a rare perspective. One which makes you understand the difficulty of her journey immensely and almost want to clap when you learn of her triumphs.
The way a writer speaks to you about themselves is very important. Some. like Shonda Rhimes, speak in an almost embarrassed way as they reveal themselves to you, others like Wendy Williams do so as if they don’t give a damn what you think. At the same time, there are those like Janet Mock who know you are curious and try their best to handle both educating you and letting you in but trying their best to not give into any desire you may have to other them. Diane is a bit of a healthy mix between all three and that is part of what made her story compelling.
Also, she presents an opportunity to be an outsider looking in and with pictures and intimate details she grants you the ability to understand something most probably wouldn’t be open about. For whether it is her parents’ attempts to become documented, the struggle of living without them, or even her bouts of depression, she touches on sensitive areas that are both unique to her and something shared among many but talked about by few.