In the Country We Love

by Diane Guerrero
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Last Updated on August 14, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 837

In The Country We Love tells the story of actress Diane Guerrero, focusing on her family's deportment and the impact it had on her life. Although Diane was born a US citizen, her parents and older brother, Eric, were undocumented, meaning that they were constantly trying to find work and get their legal papers. As a child, she had a good relationship with her family, but she was worried by the tension between her father and brother—it mostly stemmed from the fact that Eric was her mother’s child from a previous marriage. This tension led to a fight between her parents, and during the fight, Diane learned that being undocumented carries with it the threat of deportation.

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In spite of the stress, Diane showed an early passion for movies and singing. Her family stayed under the radar as well as they could—following laws to the letter—but in the struggle to get their papers, they were scammed and lost a lot of money. As Diane grew older, she became strongly rooted in Catholicism and believed that if she was “good,” God would keep her family together. As a result, she punished herself for any minor infraction in hopes that it would prevent God from giving her additional punishment. Diane also struggled in school—she would later be diagnosed with ADD and dyslexia—and was bullied because she was neither Puerto Rican nor Dominican.

Later, Diane’s mother attempted to get a green card. Things went awry, and she was deported to Colombia. Diane had to deal with the challenges of puberty with only her father to guide her. Eventually, her mother found a way to return and live in New Jersey with extended family, and Diane was able to share with her the news of her application and acceptance to Boston Arts Academy. Tragedy followed—Eric was deported from New Jersey, and her parents discovered that their immigration lawyer had taken their money and disappeared. Shortly afterward, Diane came home from school to find that her parents were gone as well—taken to separate holding facilities by immigration officers.

Diane reached out to her friend’s mother, who took her to visit her parents and bring them their things before they were deported. At her father’s request, Diane was allowed to stay with her friend’s family. However, she was terrified of being discovered and put into foster care—so much so that she fled after being hit by a car for fear that the cops would show up. During high school, she stayed with the families of two different friends, had a number of different jobs, and was accepted to Regis College.

Initially, Diane put aside her love of performing to study political science and communications. She took out several student loans and eventually found herself eighty thousand dollars in debt. At this point, she stopped visiting her parents or even returning their phone calls. That winter, she went up to the roof of her apartment building, unsure if she would jump. After falling asleep and nearly plummeting to her death, she realized she couldn’t throw away everything her parents had tried to do for her. She started seeing a therapist and decided to return to the performing arts.

In navigating the world of acting, Diane realized that everything that had happened with her family was causing a mental block in her ability to act. In an attempt to remedy this, she visited her mother again. Near the end of her trip, she revealed her anger that her mother’s attempt to get a green card had called attention to their family. After they talked, Diane realized that her mother was an admirable person, and their relationship began to heal. Even though her parents had split up, neither of them wanted to miss out on her life.

Eventually, Diane played roles in Orange Is the New Black and Jane the Virgin. After Orange won a SAG Award for Outstanding Performance, she wrote an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times about her family’s struggles and was invited to attend President Obama’s speech on immigration reform. Diane continues her call to action toward the end of her book, detailing the ways in which immigration helps the US financially and calling attention to the fact that a mass deportation would cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Diane also speaks out against the treatment of children by the immigration system, using her own life as an example:

My story represents all that should be celebrated about America . . . and yet my experience in this country also reflects a reality that’s still tough for me to face. In a nation that values keeping families together and safeguarding children, I was invisible.

In the end, Diane reiterates her intent to continue calling for rights for immigrants as well as for all Americans. She concludes that pain only has a purpose if we give it one, and that this—calling for reform—is her purpose.

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