OITNB's Diane Guerrero Opens Up About Her Parents' Deportation and Why This Is the Country They Love
Diane Guerrero isn't letting her past define her, but she certainly is letting it shape her. The Orange Is the New Black and Jane the Virgin star always had a story to tell — way before her parents were taken from their home in Boston and deported to Colombia when she was just 14. She wanted to entertain and teach on stage and on set, but she probably never imagined that her narrative would end up on pen and paper, too. Her memoir, In the Country We Love, on sale May 3, is powerful — it had me in tears page after page — and so is Diane.
It takes just a few minutes on the phone for Diane to show she's sentimental, opinionated, and determined but also empathetic and totally lovable. In all honesty, if you ever have the chance to talk to her like I did, you will find yourself wishing you could be her best friend. She is wise beyond her 29 years and ready to share her life, full of challenges and obstacles, with anyone ready for it.
Here, she opens up about the harrowing experience of being an American citizen left behind after her parents' deportation but also about her hopes for immigration change, friendship, and having a support system that made her life today possible.
POPSUGAR: Your story is very personal and emotional. Can you tell us a little bit about what the process was like once you decided it was time to share it?
Diane Guerrero: It was really scary, definitely overwhelming, and at times I really wanted to stop. It was hard reliving all of those memories, but I think I realized that I was growing through the process and even though it was tough to deal with, at the end of the day, I felt better about everything; I felt one step closer to being at peace. The book doesn't only talk about the sad moments, but it also brings up really beautiful moments with my family and in my life, triumphs that my family and I lived, and those moments are not to be taken for granted. Throughout the book, I realized I needed to appreciate my family and my own story and say, "Wow, my story is valuable too, and I shouldn't feel ashamed of it. I should be proud."
PS: The book starts with you coming home and finding that your parents have been taken by immigration officials. It's a very visceral and palpable moment. That day was life-changing — how has that influenced everything you've done moving forward?
DG: It was something really tough to go through at such a young age, but it really helped me buckle down. It showed me that I was going to have to work really hard and that things weren't going to be easy, sugarcoated. Things were just very matter-of-fact. It taught me to be strong. Even though it was an incredibly sad moment, it was inspiring. It says: "OK, here I am, what am I going to do? Am I going to curl up in a ball and stay like this and let this take me down? Or am I going to keep living and try to find my way in the world and make things better for myself?" I think I chose the latter. It made me have a vision.
I knew that I wanted better for myself. I knew that one day I had to get my family back together. I knew that there was going to be a lot of obstacles. My family was now broken, and maybe I don't get my family together in the literal sense, but I can get them on the same page regarding our truths and experiences and accepting our situation, making the most of what we were given. I wanted to show that there were real families behind the issues. I also wanted to tell it from the perspective of a citizen child left behind. I wanted to answer those questions that people often have, like, "Why didn't you go back with your parents?" and "Why wasn't it easy for them to achieve citizenship?" This is not everyone's experience, but guess what? A lot of people share them.