Writing In the Country We Love: The True Story of a Family Divided
‘LL: Can you talk to us about the inspiration for writing In the Country We Love: The True Story of a Family Divided?
Diane: Well it was my life. My parents had to struggle with the immigration system in this country and as a result they were deported when I was 14. That hit me really, really hard because I decided to stay behind and finish my studies. I took it as an opportunity to really get out there and follow my dreams. So, the book was inspired by the current political system. Right now we’re hearing a lot about immigration and what we plan to do as a country as far as our immigration problem. I recognized that the immigration system in this system is broken and I learned that from personal experience and also from seeing 11 million families in the United States who have been here for years however there is no clear path for citizenship for them. And they are undocumented not because they want to be undocumented but because there is no clear way for them to get those papers. And we’re being marginalized and criminalized for being here undocumented while we simultaneously contribute to this economy and would like to do that legally.
I think I just wanted to weigh in on the rhetoric, on the conversation. Especially now with Donald Trump saying all these nasty things about who the immigrant is, so I really wanted to change the conversation. I really wanted to change the culture in which we look at immigrants and undocumented people in this country. This is a human issue not just a political issue and I experienced this first hand. It was extremely traumatic and I know what it is and I had to share it because millions of families are going through the same thing.
‘LL: What were some the challenges in writing the book?
Diane: I mean just revisiting everything I had been through, some things I really had stored away. But also, writing a book is hard! I got help with it but even that is difficult to really let go of your work and let somebody have so much influence in it and kind of try to convey what you really mean and what you really feel. I had a hard time with the whole process because I probably didn’t want to let go of the story at all since it is something so personal. Revealing all that to the public, giving myself to the public in that way was so difficult. But you know I was so gung-ho about the movement, so I was like alright, and for me I always like to do things big so I figured you have to make a big splash if you want to be heard. So that was part of my sacrifice. It’s a really small price to pay to get your voice really heard and maybe hopefully have others join that movement and encourage others to use their voices. And to think, ‘My story is important, my story is valuable and it deserves to be told and I don’t need to be ashamed of who I am.’ That was a big moment for me where I was like okay, I can’t be ashamed of my story any longer, it is an American story, it is part of this country’s history and it deserves to be looked at as such.
‘LL: What groups do you work with on these issues?
Diane: I do work right now with Mi Familia Vota, which is a civic engagement group and they encourage the Latino community to vote. I’m also working with the ILRC, which is the Immigration Legal Resource Center and they provide information to people who don’t know about the current immigration system, who need help, who are in danger of being deported themselves. They offer a lot of information through that. So I’m trying to gear my message towards education and telling people to educate themselves on this issue if they want to really help themselves — and get rid of the fear and turn that fear into action. That’s why I’m working with these groups that provide a lot of education to people. Then along the way I’ve met a lot of immigration groups that are on my side like Chirla and Voto Latino. So, I’m doing a lot of side projects with these organizations, too. I get pitched a lot of projects and anything that coincides with my message I’m down for. We are all a community so we have to work together on this.
For more info about upcoming book signings and events go to www.Inthecountrywelove.com. Catch Diane Guerrero on OITNB when Season Four premieres on Netflix June 17th.
Orange Is the New Black Photo/Copyright Lions Gate Television & Tilted Productions
Diane Guerrero at book signing/Johnny Louis/Wire Images/Getty Images