Don’t make the mistake of reading In the Country We Love: My Family Divided in a public place.
Otherwise you will be like me, in an Austin sushi restaurant, trying not to let tears fall into some delicious rolls, as I read about the awful experience of Diane’s parents’ sudden deportation and her being left alone at age 14. Fortunately not all of the book is heart-wrenching! With the aid of Michelle Burford, Diane’s confident, funny voice shines through with her appropriately placed hashtags and real talk.
But at the heart of this book, it’s a memoir about the impact of the deportation of two immigrants—who made every attempt at becoming citizens but in the end were swindled by a sketchy, corrupt lawyer, btw—upon their daughter, the solo U.S. citizen in her family. Times were definitely not easy for Diane as she waded through adulthood far too early at age 14 and navigated herself through finishing high school, picking a college, and ultimately working towards fulfilling her dream of becoming a performer. Spoiler alert: she did! Diane plays Maritza on Orange is the New Black and Lina on Jane the Virgin.
In the Country We Love is one the best memoirs I’ve read in a long time, and frankly, it’s because this book has a discernible purpose other than the author waxing about their life: the United States needs immigration reform. Diane’s parents’ struggles with navigating paperwork in a language they made every attempt at learning was heartbreaking and even more so when they put themselves in the hands of corruption. I’m paraphrasing Diane here, but I agree when she wrote that regardless of where you stand on the immigration debate, the U.S. government should not have abandoned its own citizen: no social worker or child protection service worker ever showed up at her door after ICE sent her parents off to Colombia.
By now, any sensible person should know the “American Dream” is far from a dream, and the effects of its expectations against reality actually can be nightmares. The Guerreo’s tried! They tried to learn English, they tried to get their paperwork in order, they tried nearly damn everything to become citizens, but our system let them down. It’s infuriating to think that we promise America as this land of plenty where all your hopes and dreams can come true, but in reality, it’s not. Our system is not built to make any of this easy or live up to the so-called ideals of the “American Dream.”
What I loved, though, was Diane and her family did prevail through their struggles, even if their lives didn’t exactly turn out as they had hoped or planned. This memoir was a really great read, despite the heavy matter. I cannot recommend it enough for those wanting a perspective someone failed by our immigration system and the promise of birthright citizenship.