My Family Divided: One Girl's Journey of Home, Loss, and Hope

Book review by
Nayanika Kapoor, Common Sense Media
My Family Divided: One Girl's Journey of Home, Loss, and Hope Book Poster Image
Heartbreaking, inspiring memoir of popular actress.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Explains citizenship process in the U.S. Sprinkled with Spanish words, talks about Colombian and Peruvian food. Explains concepts of systemic racism and discrimination in U.S. Good introduction to civic engagement, how to get politically involved. 

Positive Messages

Stay true to yourself. Be persistent in face of very, very difficult obstacles. Follow your dreams, no matter how many people tell you they're impractical. Importance of loyalty to family and community. Have empathy for people who are not in your position. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Diane is incredibly inspiring -- she's persistent, thoughtful, kindhearted. She has a strong sense of wrong and right, and takes responsibility for her actions. She's also mature beyond her years, very good about communicating feelings. She takes active steps to achieve her goals and make her dreams come true. Diane's friends and family are supportive, and even though they make mistakes, they recognize and reflect upon them. 

Violence

Mentions of Diane cutting and having thoughts of suicide, but she seeks help. Dad and son get in a minor fight. Mom throws something at the dad in a fight. A person gets killed by gunfire. 

Sex
Language

"Damn," "hell," "jerk" a few times.

Consumerism

Makeover scene where the girls buy clothes and do their makeup. Diane is careful with money, earns and budgets for herself. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Diane mentions that she struggled with a drinking habit when she was in a period of depression but reached out for help when she recognized her problem. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that My Family Divided is the gritty and incredibly inspiring memoir of Orange Is the New Black actress Diane Guerrero, who overcame numerous obstacles to get to where she is today. Adapted for children from her original autobiography for adults and written with Erica Moroz, it details Guerrero's experience navigating the aftermath of her parents' and brother's deportation when she was 14, tackling severe mental health issues, and the difficulties of breaking into the entertainment industry. There's a reference to Guerrero having had a drinking habit that she sought help for, a few instances of mild swearing ("damn," "hell"), and a physical fight not described in detail, and mention that Diane's aunt was fatally shot and Diane's mother continued to grieve for her later in life. Guerrero struggles with depression, resorts to self-harm (cutting), and has thoughts of suicide but gets help. Although marketed to a middle grade audience, this memoir could be disturbing for younger readers. The thought of parents being taken away can be traumatic, and the book tackles complex issues in a very personal way. The book is a better fit for teens, especially those who are curious about immigration and mature enough to talk about complex issues. It's hard to see Diane struggling, but overall it's an inspiring and enlightening read. Black-and-white photos are included throughout, from childhood snaps to on-set shots to a photo with President Obama. 

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What's the story?

MY FAMILY DIVIDED begins with Diane Guerrero as a typical tween girl, spending lots of time with her three best friends, going to school, watching her favorite shows, and hanging out with her family. But underneath there's a constant worry about her parents' documentation status, something that's been a part of her life for as long as she can remember. At 14, her parents and brother are in fact taken away from her and deported back to Colombia. Diane, who was born in the U.S., stays alone in the country with the help of family friends. She must balance becoming an independent adult (far earlier than most) with pursuing an ambitious acting career and trying to succeed in school. This story shows her journey to become the successful actress she is today, despite all the obstacles she had to overcome. 

Is it any good?

This well-written memoir tells an incredible story of persistence, courage, and triumph. In her personable and friendly voice, actress/author Diane Guerrero recounts her personal experiences of what many people in the U.S. have to face every single day. While the topics tackled in My Family Divided are difficult and complex, Guerrero uses simple language and an approachable tone to help readers understand her struggle. Her journey is truly inspirational, and every part of the book is educational and enlightening, though much of it can also be heartbreaking. She doesn't sugarcoat any of it but reflects on her experiences thoughtfully and explains her actions at different points in the book.

My Family Divided is a natural fit for kids interested in politics, immigration, the news, and current events. It's a moving and inspiring story for readers mature enough to handle it.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how My Family Divided portrays immigration and highlights the need for reform in the United States' system. Why do people on both political sides feel the way they do about immigration? 

  • How does Diane balance her responsibilities with her desire to pursue her acting dreams? Do you think it's harder for the children of immigrants to succeed? 

  • Have you struggled with mental health issues and the kind of disturbing thoughts the author discusses in My Family Divided? What are some coping mechanisms you use to get through difficult situations? Who can you turn to for help? 

  • Why do you think representation in media is so important? Do you feel like your identity has been represented enough on television and in movies?

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