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Review: In the Country We Love by Diane Guerrero

Title: In the Country We Love
Author: Diane Guerrero
Year Published: 2016

Genre: YA non-fiction (memoir)
Pages: 247
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2017 Google Reading map): USA (MA, NY), Columbia and Spain

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school library

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Diane Guerrero, the television actress from the megahits Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin, was just fourteen years old on the day her parents were detained and deported while she was at school. Born in the United States, Guerrero was able to remain in the country and continue her education, depending on the kindness of family friends who took her in and helped her build a life and a successful acting career for herself, without the support system of her family.

In the Country We Love is a moving, heartbreaking story of one woman's extraordinary resilience in the face of nightmarish struggles of undocumented residents in this country. There are over eleven million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, many of whom have citizen children, whose lives here are precarious and whose stories haven't been told. This memoir is a tale of personal triumph that also casts a much-needed light on the fears that haunt the daily existence of families like the author's and on a system that fails them over and over.

Review: I have been trying to get this book from my school library for ages and as summer began it was finally there! This book won the Alex Award for an adult book that will appeal to teens so it counts for one of my challenges, but I have also heard good things about it. This could be seen as yet another memoir by a celebrity, but it is so much more than that.

Guerrero's story is like that of so many students in my school district: either they or their parents are undocumented. I've recently begun working with other teachers to help find resources for these families and their stories are heartbreaking. Luckily Guerrero had friends who could take her in until she finished high school and get herself launched at college. But she is very resourceful, getting loans and a few scholarships on her own as she figured out the system. Reading the parts about her tumultuous relationship with her mother and father after their deportation was heartbreaking. With them in Columbia, she really didn't have people to count on, to help her find her way and make decisions. 

Attending the Boston Academy of Arts really helped Guerrero find her passion, which she eventually ended up following. After many years of cruddy jobs, hundreds of auditions, and virtually no money, she has succeeded in the "business." I hope teenagers read this book to realize that others are going through the same things they are. Guerrero never told anyone her parents had been deported; not until she was successful did the story finally come out. She was embarrassed by it all and I know that's how our students feel as well.

Challenges for which this counts: 

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