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

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

by Diane Guerrero, Erica Moroz

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Before landing a spot on the megahit Netflix show Orange is the New Black; before wow-ing audiences as Lina on Jane the Virgin; and before her incredible activism and work on immigration reform, Diane Guerrero was a young girl living in Boston. One day, while Guerrero was at school, her undocumented immigrant parents were taken from their home, detained, and deported. Guerrero's life, which had been full of the support of a loving family, was turned upside down.

Reflective of the experiences of millions of undocumented immigrant families in the United States, Guerrero's story in My Family Divided, written with Erica Moroz, is at once heartbreaking and hopeful.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250134875
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date: 07/17/2018
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 401,900
File size: 41 MB
Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About the Author

Diane Guerrero is an actress on the hit shows Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin. She volunteers with the non-profit Immigrant Legal Resource Center, as well as with Mi Familia Vota, an organization that promotes civic involvement. She was named an ambassador for citizenship and naturalization by the Obama White House. She lives in New York City.

Erica Moroz is the New York Times-bestselling coauthor of numerous books for young readers, including Quiet Power: The Secret Strength of Introverted Kids by Susan Cain. She works as an editor and ceramicist in New York.

Diane Guerrero is an actress on the hit shows Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin. She has written about her family in the Los Angeles Times and has appeared on CNN to discuss immigration issues. She also volunteers with the nonprofit Immigrant Legal Resource Center. She lives in New York City.
Erica Moroz is the New York Times-bestselling co-author and ghostwriter of numerous young reader adaptations, including Enrique's Journey: Adapted for Young People by Sonia Nazario, Quiet Power: The Secret Strength of Introverted Kids by Susan Cain, and Just Mercy: Young Reader's Edition by Bryan Stevenson. She lives in New York.

Read an Excerpt



That bright spring day started off like any other. I know because I've replayed it in my head hundreds and hundreds of times, trying to make sense of it. Trying to piece together what happened.

"Diane, come eat your breakfast," came my mother's voice from the kitchen.

I was shoving books in my bag, hustling to get out the door. "I gotta go!" I yelled back, because — let's face it — I had 'tude.

"You've got another second," she said, following me down the hall. "You need to eat something."

"No, I don't have another second," I groaned. "Why do you always do this to me?" If there was one thing I disliked, it was being late. Especially when I was heading to a school I loved: the Boston Arts Academy (BAA). Before Mami could say another word or even hug me good-bye — slam! — I was out the door and off to class.

It was nice out, around seventy degrees. After a frosty winter, the weather was improving — and so, it seemed, was my family's luck. The day before, against all odds, my dad had a winning Powerball ticket. A few thousand bucks — and for us, it was the jackpot. On top of that, the love was flowing again in our house. Our family bonds felt close. A sign, perhaps, that better times were coming.

I peeped at my watch, mid sprint across campus. Three minutes until the bell. BAA, a performing arts high school in the heart of Boston, had truly become my home away from home. I could feel a prickle of energy as I approached. Even before 8:00 a.m., the place was buzzing. You know when cameras roll backstage on shows like America's Got Talent and The Voice? Well, that was the vibe (minus the cameras) of BAA. There'd be all these kids dancing around and stretching in the hallways. Next door, another group would be belting out songs or hanging their art up on the walls. The energy was epic, particularly right before spring fest — the one night our parents got to see us perform. It was the most special night of the year. And my song — a duet called "The Last Night of the World" from Miss Saigon — was part of the finale. My performance had to be better than good — it had to be Beyoncé-style flawless.

Right on time but a bit out of breath, I rounded the corner into humanities class. First, we had subjects like math and science, and then came the classes I lived for — theater, art, music.

Nine. Ten. Eleven. Noon. With each passing hour, I couldn't help noticing a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach. The kind you get when something isn't quite right. Maybe because I hadn't eaten breakfast. Maybe because I was nervous for the solo. Most likely, though, I figured it was because of how I'd treated my mom; I knew I needed to apologize.

Spring fest rehearsal came at the end of the school day. My teacher Mr. Stewart was already in the music room. So was Damien — the sweet black kid with a 'fro and glasses who was the other half of my duet.

"You need to warm up?" Mr. Stewart asked me from his perch at the piano. As usual, he was wearing a tie, a dress shirt, and that big grin we all knew him for.

"I'm cool," I said, stashing my backpack in a chair and hurrying over to them. Mr. Stewart played the ballad's opening notes. Damien's part was first.

"'In a place that won't let us feel,'" he sang softly. "'In a life where nothing seems real, I have found you ... I have found you.'"

Next was my verse. "'In a world that's moving too fast,'" I chimed in a little off-key. "'In a world where nothing can last, I will hold you ...'"

Mr. Stewart stopped playing. "You sure you're okay, Diane?" he asked.

I shrugged, a little embarrassed. I'd been practicing this song in my bedroom mirror and in the shower for days; I knew it up and down. "Just rusty," I told him.

"Let's try it again," Mr. Stewart said.

I stood up tall and cleared my throat. Closing my eyes helped me concentrate.

"'In a world that's moving too fast,'" I sang. "'In a world where nothing can last, I will hold you ... I will hold you.'"

I opened my eyelids long enough to see my teacher nod. Phew. All year, I'd been trying to figure out whether this music thing was for me. Whether I could really make it as a singer. And thanks to Mr. Stewart, I was starting to believe I had a shot. I couldn't wait for my family to see me perform. The anticipation made me giddy.

On the way home from rehearsal, I stopped at Foot Locker. Earlier that morning, Papi had generously given me a crisp fifty-dollar bill from his Powerball win. "Buy yourself something nice, sweetheart," he told me. "Anything you want." I'd had my eye on this pair of classic Adidas shell-toes for weeks. Splurging on them was a no-brainer.

I proudly handed the cashier that shiny fifty-dollar bill. "You can wear them out of the store if you want," he said. I stuffed my old sneakers in my bag and headed off to the T — the Orange Line. It was five thirty. Definitely time to head home for dinner.

At six fifteen, the train pulled into the Stony Brook station. I strolled across the platform, careful to keep my Adidas fresh. They were so dope.

The sun was setting. I knew my parents would be wondering what time I'd get home. I should let them know I'm on my way, I thought. I spotted a pay phone — yes, pay phones were still a thing — dropped a quarter in, and dialed. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. "You've reached Maria, Hector, and Diane," said my mother's voice on the machine. "We're not here right now. Please leave us a message." Beep.

One of my parents was always home by this time. Always. Neither of them had mentioned having plans — then again, I'd bolted from the house that morning, maybe before they'd had a chance to tell me. That seemed unlikely, though. Where could they be? With trembling hands, I threw off my backpack and checked the pockets for quarters. Bingo. I forced the coin into the slot and pressed hard on each digit. Ring. Ring. Ring.

All at once, I jetted. I'd run these three blocks to our house dozens of times; I knew the route in my sleep. Let them be home, I prayed with every step. God, please — let them be there. One block. One and a half. Two blocks. A girl on her scooter called out, "Hey, Diane!" but I was sprinting too fast to answer.

When I made it onto our street, I saw my dad's Toyota station wagon in the driveway. Relief. They didn't hear the phone, I reassured myself. They've gotta be here. I rushed up to our porch and held my breath, bracing myself for what I'd find on the other side of that door.



To make sense of my family's story, let's start at the beginning.

On July 21, 1986, I entered the world with a privilege that has shaped my entire existence. Because I was born in the United States, I received a gift guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of our Constitution: citizenship. My mother and father — or Mami and Papi, as I lovingly call them — and my big brother, Eric, would've done just about anything to have that blessing for themselves, too.

Mami and Papi worked. And I mean superhard. That's what it takes to make it in America as you're struggling for citizenship. From the time they arrived from Colombia, they accepted the sort of low-paying jobs that make some people turn up their noses. Scrubbing toilets. Painting houses. Mowing lawns. Mopping floors. The kind of work no one else wants to do. The kind of work we sometimes don't even notice is being taken care of. My dad, Hector, left for his shift as a restaurant dishwasher well before sunrise; at noon, he went to his other job at a factory. Monday through Friday and sometimes on weekends, my father worked. It's how he made ends meet for us.

My mother, Maria, did everything from babysitting to cleaning hotels and office buildings. When I was small, she took me along for her shifts. As she wheeled her supply cart through the aisles, stopping to vacuum and wipe, she let me wander. "Put that back, Diane," she'd scold if she caught me touching things. Almost immediately, I'd be on to other mischief — swiveling in a chair and play typing, pretending I was a secretary. I could always entertain myself. My imagination came with me wherever we went.

My parents came here as immigrants to make sure I had opportunities that weren't available in Colombia. I often took it for granted that even though they had very little, didn't know the area, and didn't have the same technology we have today like smartphones, Yelp, or navigation, they still managed to find cool places to take me and my friends. I remember how they found a great skating rink they would take us to and watch while we had fun on the ice. I think about those days often, how they tried to give us the very best and help us live the most normal lives possible. When I think about skating in that rink I realize how much they sacrificed.

One of my favorite things to do when I was in elementary school was to find a spot on our sofa, curl up with the remote, and flip through my favorite shows. I also had this huge collection of Disney movies. I knew every character by heart, like Princess Jasmine, Belle, Simba, Cruella, and Pocahontas — yeah, they were my homies. By kindergarten, I'd become convinced I was Ariel from The Little Mermaid. I dressed like her, sang like her. And of course, I knew all the details of her wish to escape from her life to another. Ariel was my kind of girl — a dreamer.

"How does your song go?" my brother, Eric, teased me one Friday. "Is it 'Under the ocean'?"

"Shut up," I said, rolling my eyes, embarrassed. He'd overheard the rendition of "Wish I could be ... part of that w-o-o-o-rld!" that I'd recently hollered into my microphone (and by microphone, I mean my mom's hairbrush).

Eric, who is ten years older, kept an eye on me when our parents were out. Can you imagine growing up with a sibling who's a full decade older? It's like being an only child. Think about it: When I was six, Eric was sixteen. Which means that, for the most part, he did his thing and I did mine.

He was cool, taking me along with him, always having my back. "Come on, baby girl," he'd say when we'd scrounged up enough loose change from beneath our couch cushions. "Let's go down to Chuck E. Cheese's." There, he'd play video games while I jumped myself silly in the inflatable bouncer. When we got home, we'd curl up in front of the tube again. When it came to TV hang time, Sundays were the best. Eric would mix up one of his chocolate shakes or fruit smoothies, and we would watch The Simpsons. It was our weekly tradition.

My parents started early and worked long hours, but they made sure that they usually finished work by dinnertime. Family meals were important to us. At five, the smell of Mami's rice and beans; fried plantains; and sancocho, a Colombian soup with corn and beef, wafted through our halls, rising to mix with the sound of salsa music. My mother and father are both fantastic cooks. Mami had her signature dishes, and Papi was always creating something new, sometimes adding an American, Chinese, Italian, or Dominican twist. One thing is for sure, our fridge was never empty. Papi would always say we didn't have much but at least we had food. I didn't ask for much, as long as he'd make me my favorite weekend snack of "pulpos y papitas" (octopus and fries). Papi would cut a hot dog in half and slice it in the middle two ways so the hot dog looked like it had tentacles, and when fried, the tentacles would come out looking like an octopus. My dad was always doing fun little things like that for me.

I was easy to please: I'd eat pretty much anything, as long as it had ketchup on it ... and the foods didn't touch one another. "Ooh, that's delicious!" my mother would declare upon tasting her creation. Then as she prepared my plate, she'd pour the beans directly over the rice. "Mami!" I'd protest. "Can you please keep them separate?"

Dinner was our time to catch up. It was also my chance to take center stage. Once the family had gathered around the table, I'd belt out whatever Selena or Whitney Houston hit I'd just learned. "'And I ... will always love you!'" I sang one evening, lifting an arm to add drama. My audience applauded as if I'd brought down the house at Madison Square Garden. "That's wonderful, honey!" Mami exclaimed. After a few more ballads, Papi would cut my concert short. "That's enough, chibola!" he'd say through laughs. He'd given me that sweet nickname after he'd heard it on a Peruvian TV show; it's slang for "my little girl." Whenever he said it, I cracked up.

We moved a lot, but all within a small area of Boston. If the rent went up, we searched for somewhere more affordable. Our homes were small, with tiny bedrooms. Eric usually had his own space, but until I was five, I slept with my parents. As I got older, Mami would create a makeshift bedroom for me, mattress and all, in the living room. Sometimes, we lived in an apartment; other times, we were in a two-family house. I didn't care, as long as we were together. We always made do with what we had.

My mother did all she could to make our surroundings nice. She hung lacy curtains that she'd gotten on sale. She spruced up our bathroom with a blue fluffy floor mat. On her days off, she dusted and organized the living room. She had a thing for scented candles. During the Catholic holidays, she'd line up a row of them, lighting each to fill our living room with a sweet smell.

Mami took pride in how our home looked, and how she herself looked. She valued cleanliness as much as an honest day's work. She saved her pennies so she could occasionally splurge on lotion or lipstick; she kept her nails polished. And before bed, she brushed her dark, shoulder-length mane until it was silky.

Papi was well-groomed, too. His short hair was swept neatly back, his mustache perfectly trimmed. He wore cologne daily. No matter how much they struggled with money, they made sure Eric and I always rocked at least one cool outfit. They taught us to make the most of what we had and to look our best. They also passed on an important lesson — that our bond with each other and our neighbors was the greatest treasure of all.

In our community, we looked out for one another. When my parents' or our neighbors' friends fled here from Colombia, they often slept on our floor. "We need to help them get settled," Mami would explain as she scooted over my mattress to make room for the visitors. Just as my parents' friends and family had done for them, Mami and Papi would hook up newcomers with work, like cleaning or house painting. Show them where to get affordable groceries. Help them with English. Listen to their stories from home. Encourage them to get residence or citizenship that would allow them to live in the United States legally.

At home, and in the community, we all spoke a mix of Spanish and accented English. People with accents are often dismissed. It's assumed that they don't know the language well. The way I see it, though, an accent is a sign of hard work and bravery. Of stepping outside your comfort zone, learning a language that you weren't raised with. There's ambition in an accent, which I have always deeply admired.

Between my nightly performances and Los Hermanos Lebrón blaring from our radio, there was rarely a quiet moment. Did the noise annoy the people on our street? Not one bit. In immigrant communities all over the globe, celebrating is part of the culture. It's part of survival. When your relatives are thousands of miles away, you make up for it by connecting with those around you who speak your language. Eat your food. Love your music. Honor your traditions. We showed up for one another's barbecues, baptisms, anniversaries, quinceañeras. And Thanksgiving and Christmas? Off the chain. We partied our way from one home to the next.

Halloween was my favorite holiday. It was at a neighborhood get-together that I met two of my closest friends. I was five. Mami had recently befriended another Colombian lady, Amelia, who lived nearby in Jamaica Plain. She was having a gathering, just because; Colombians don't need a reason to party. Mami brought me, and that weekend, I made my debut as Tinker Bell. Amelia's daughter, Gabriela, also five, was dressed as Snow White; her cousin, Dana, was Minnie Mouse. When a flying fairy, a lovely princess, and a polka-dot-clad mouse come face-to-face, there's zero need for small talk. That's why I cut to the chase: "Wanna dance?" I asked. Both girls nodded and grinned. After we'd shown one another our best moves, there was no looking back; I had two best friends for life.

The next Halloween, at a church costume contest, we expanded our BFF circle by one. "Nice tutu." I smirked at this girl named Sabrina, who'd shown up wearing the same white ballerina outfit I had on; I had a total "chick stole my look" moment ... like come on, this girl is not going to out-ballerina me! We both bolted on that stage, full throttle. Thirty pliés, sautés, and whatever else we were trying to pass off as ballet later, we both lost the contest. Sabrina and I realized there was no other way to recover but to become besties.


Excerpted from "My Family Divided"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Diane Guerrero.
Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
1. Not Quite Right,
2. Wonder Years,
3. Mi Familia,
4. Underground,
5. The Good Girl,
6. Without Mami,
7. The Plan,
8. Ground Shift,
9. Taken,
10. A New Reality,
11. Second Family,
12. Growing Pains,
13. Butterfly,
14. Another World,
15. The Edge,
16. Turnabout,
17. Stage Right,
18. New York City,
19. Orange,
20. Into Daylight,
About the Authors,

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