In the Country We Love by Diane Guerrero
Henry Holt and Co., 2016, 272 pages
In Diane Guerrero’s memoir In the Country We Love, the actress recounts her life from her earliest memories to the present. Guerrero, an advocate for immigration reform, relives some of her most difficult moments, including the process with a lawyer who promised citizen status but stole thousands from her parents, and the eventual deportation of her family. While she bounced around friends’ homes and eventually found her way into acting, Guerrero never forgot the struggles of her family and continues to fight for immigration reform today. In an updated edition of her memoir, Guerrero wonders about the impact of America’s 45th president with a renewed dedication to her cause with an added afterword.
The prose in Guerrero’s memoir is fantastically eloquent. Despite taking on a challenging and complicated topic — and one which many people feel strongly about and, even further, strongly against Guerrero — her arguments are always clear and made simple to follow. Though immigration reform is likely a difficult topic for Guerrero to write about at length, she always makes social issues easy to understand and visceral, for readers who are more removed from the challenges wrapped up in immigration. It is her ability to make these challenges real and immediate that sets her arguments apart. The February 2017 addition to the book makes this even more evident with words and ideas that are both powerful and unapologetic. From her discussion around immigration to her descriptions of more light-hearted topics, Guerrero paints a clear and vivid picture without fail, making In the Country We Love an enjoyable read.
Toward the earlier pages of the book, Guerrero admits the memoir will be difficult to get to for her. She acknowledges that talking about immigration and her own story will be personally emotionally challenging. Despite this, she says, it’s important to her that the book is written: she felt alone when her parents were deported, and she feels a responsibility to let other young people in her position know they are not alone. Guerrero certainly gets the job done as she is painfully honest in her storytelling. This means she not only lets others know they are not alone, but lets those who have not been in her position in on the reality of it, perhaps to the benefit of swaying them to her “side” if they aren’t already there. This goal is incredibly admirable, given that this story is one that is, often, incredibly personal.
But Guerrero’s memoir is not all hard edges and realities. She’s endlessly funny and finds humor in dark places. With optimism and lightness of heart, Guerrero makes her otherwise heart-rending work one that is a breeze. In the Country We Love is fantastically readable and a breeze to move through, despite its heaviness. Her sense of humor combined with her determination and interesting story propels the reader through to the end quickly. Yet In the Country We Love is not strictly brain candy — with her calls to action and explanation of social issues, Guerrero easily leaves her readers feeling as if they’ve learned something and are empowered to act.
Though Guerrero does not go into extreme detail on her work with Orange Is the New Black and Jane the Virgin, she provides enough information that most readers will be satisfied. More interesting, perhaps, is Guerrero’s journey to her life as an actress. Her skill as an actress is especially highlighted not in her descriptions of her work, but rather the vivid images she provides of people in her life. Her deep understanding and sketches of these people make it clear how she is able to so exactly bring her characters to life in her various acting jobs.
Whether you’re interested in Guerrero as a celebrity or interested in opinions on immigration reform, In the Country We Love is a heartbreaking and heartwarming tribute to life as a new American and living in immigrant families.
I read this book as part of Book Riot’s 2017 Read Harder Challenge, fulfilling challenge #5, “Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative,” and I leave it behind with four-and-a-half hearts.
❤❤❤❤💔 out of ❤❤❤❤❤