Diane Guerrero has some important things to say about immigration reform in this country, but she gets in her own way a bit with the tone she chooses for this memoir. She was only fourteen years old when her parents were arrested while she was at school, and after they were swiftly deported back to their native Colombia, their only daughter was left completely alone. No one showed up to check on her welfare—not police, not ICE, not child protective services. So not only did her parents disappear from her life, but it was also as if she herself had become invisible.
Clearly, Guerrero's experiences growing up as the child of undocumented immigrants were heartbreaking, and perhaps her idea was to try to inhabit the mindset she had as a teenager when all this was happening to her. Unfortunately, for my tastes anyway, Guerrero channels that immaturity a little too well, and the result is a superficial, grating tone that put me off even though, knowing of her eventual success as an actress, I tried hard to root for her.
I'm having a tough time articulating why exactly her conversational style didn't work for me, because I don't think of myself as picky when it comes to formality in writing. I've read and enjoyed plenty of other celebrity memoirs that fall short of (and don't aspire to be) great literature. But Guerrero's attempts at humor aren't clever or creative, they're just one-note riffs on a single theme—that she's a loud, excitable ditz.
It frustrated me, because she's so obviously more than that. The last chapter is a call to action, with statistics on immigration and analysis of specific policies that do and don't work, along with suggestions for what concerned citizens can do to help. It was a 180 degree shift in tone from the rest of the book, and I found myself wishing Guerrero had written that book instead of the one she did write, one that showcased her intelligence and insight instead of masking it under layers of inane adolescent snark.
Despite these reservations, I do hope Guerrero gains a solid audience for her book, because there is a lot of great information here that could be eye-opening to readers who haven't seen the struggles of undocumented immigrants firsthand. She fully explores all the different emotions she went through and how her parents' absence affected her life. By telling her story, she makes a public policy debate personal and accessible, which is never a bad thing, especially in our current polarized political climate.