My Side of the River, a review by Di

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🇲🇽 🇲🇽 🇲🇽
Elizabeth Camarillo Gutierrez

St Martin’s Press
February 13, 2024
272 pages

Goodreads | | Amazon

This is a memoir by a young girl who was born in the US to undocumented parents from Mexico.

I really looked forward to her story. We spent 15 winters in the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas. We got to meet some of these people. We could see that most of them are very hard workers, we understood their plight. Many of their children were born in the US, making the children citizens. They wanted education for their children, they wanted a better life for their children. They wanted to escape the poverty of Mexico, the threat of danger from gang wars over drugs. Family was of the utmost importance to them. We learned not to ask many questions, but just to listen.

Elizabeth is a very strong and smart girl. We watch her grow into a young lady and through much work and hardship, she gets a scholarship to university. Her dream and her parents’ dream.

Elizabeth’s story is compelling. Her story reflects much of what I learned while in Texas but on a more personal level. But, the writing style falls flat. I feel that emotion and passion are missing from the retelling. She writes about the facts. But, it feels distant.

In the early part of the story, Elizabeth is in the fourth grade, which would make her about 9 years old. Her family co-habits a trailer with an aunt and uncle. Her uncle is a violent alcoholic. As a child, she psychoanalyzes him as to why he acts that way. Her analysis of him is probably right but I think she came up with it as an adult, not a 9 year old girl. There are a couple of other examples of this in the book.

A memoir is always from the author’s perspective. The author writes the truth as he remembers it. It is not up to the reader to question the writer’s memory or perspective.

I’m glad I read the book. Elizabeth is only in her 20s. Perhaps if she had waited a few years to write the story of her life, struggles and success, it could have been written with a bit more feeling.

I’m glad that others have given more glowing reviews. Awareness of the plight of undocumented people needs to be known.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the Advance Readers Copy.

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