Orange Is the New Black actress Guerrero delivers an affecting tale of a childhood lived in the margins.
Born to undocumented Colombian immigrants upon their arrival stateside, the author quickly learned not to draw attention to herself or her parents. Mami and Papi, lovingly detailed in colloquial and well-paced prose, were hardworking and doting parents, deeply supportive of the author’s interest in the arts. Growing older, Guerrero noticed the small differences that set her family apart—e.g., the way her father’s personality shrunk in public or the terror inspired by an unexpected guest at the door. Mami and Papi struggled tirelessly to remedy their immigration status, but the family’s worst fears were realized when the author was 14: she arrived home from school to an empty house, discovering her parents had been deported just hours earlier. In the book’s strongest passages, Guerrero recounts the fear, shame, and instability that followed. Taken in by a family friend, she found solace in the performing arts while her relationship with her parents grew more fractured over time and distance. As she attempted to define herself and her future, Guerrero grappled with a number of serious financial obstacles and mental health issues, further deepening the rift in familial ties. The author’s candor in chronicling the lowest moments of her life reads like an urgent confessional. Indeed, it wasn’t until she shared her story that the healing—and her acting career—could finally begin. Readers looking for intricate details about Guerrero’s time on set will be disappointed; the sections recounting her Hollywood experiences are rushed, often cluttered with unnecessary detail. The author’s greatest strength lies in her ability to advocate for undocumented immigrants and others affected by immigration status: “I’ve written the book that I wish I could have read when I was that girl.”
A moving, humanizing portrait of the collateral damage caused by America’s immigration policy.