In the Country We Love: My Family Divided


ALA The American Library Association

Orange is the New Black actor Diane Guerrero (on the right) uses her life story to describe a detrimental issue in America today.

The popular Netflix series Orange Is The New Black left a mark on the audience after portraying the brutal reality of many female prisoners in the United States. One storyline in particular left many fans in tears, including actress Diane Guerrero. 

Famous for her roles in Orange Is The New Black, Doom Patrol and Jane the Virgin, Guerrero decided to use her platform to share a story, In the Country We Love: My Family Divided, which illustrates the effects of deportation on her personal life. At the age of fourteen, Guerrero was left without her parents after the Immigration and Customs Unit (ICE) deported them to Colombia. Despite the efforts that Guerrero’s parents made to build a life after escaping the poverty of their homeland, it was not enough to keep them in the country. Instead, the government sent them back without a second thought. At the time, Guerrero could not understand why her parents were sent back but later realized that it was because they were undocumented immigrants. 

In order to bring awareness to the topic of deportation, Guerrero decided to write her memoir In the Country We Love: My Family Divided with best-selling author Michelle Burford. A collection of her anecdotes and family photos allows readers to explore her history and the traditions that she holds close to her heart. On the book’s website, Guerrero describes the importance of sharing this novel with the younger generation: “There are over 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US, many of whom have citizen children, whose lives here are just as precarious, and whose stories haven’t been told.” 

Many events in the book surprised me. Despite her parents being back in Colombia, Guerrero continued to study in America to become an actress and to make her parents proud of her success. Although she was separated from her family, she sustained a healthy relationship with her friends and neighbors as they continued to raise her in the absence of her parents. Most people today cannot imagine living without family support at that age, but it is not uncommon for the children of deported families to be left alone without any government support. 

For Guerrero, there were limited options. The government did not help her find another family to raise her nor did they contact  social services. 

In an interview with NPR’s Michel Martin, Guerrero said that deportation continues to plague families and America’s youth: “I am an American citizen, but somehow I am looked as less than that because my parents were undocumented… It’s like, sorry, kid, your parent’s a criminal. I don’t think that that’s what our country stands for. I don’t think that we should stand by this.” 

Guerrero believes that people see America as an asylum and immigrants should be treated with respect instead of being ignored, especially if they are trying to make an honest living like her parents did. She volunteers for the Immigration Legal Resource center in order to provide at-risk families with more information and resources and is an ambassador for the White House’s Citizenship and Naturalization efforts. She wrapped up the interview by saying, “We have lost all empathy because we are so desensitized from all of these terrorist acts that are happening in our country from separation of families… This is just a letter saying, hey, we love you. We are together in this. We are working hard to let our voices be heard. And you are not alone.” 

I enjoyed the novel as it was a good eye-opener to relevant issues. The story-telling is easy to follow but heavy in content, so I found myself having to put down the novel a couple of times to fully process the emotions and events that Guerrero communicates. While the second half of the novel sort of strays away from the idea of deportation and instead focuses on her acting career, I would say that this arrangement fits, and it is not uncommon for memoirs to go in this direction. For example, Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime initially focused on the racism he faced but later changed his focus to his career. The discussion about careers gives many youths a chance to understand that hard work and determination yield success, and circumstances should not hold back passion. Overall, this is a novel I would recommend as a quick but important read.