A moving, humanizing portrait of the collateral damage caused by America’s immigration policy.

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.

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-527-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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