Proud American is a biography about your journey through life in South Texas; from migrant worker to US solider and then US Border Patrol agent. What was the inspiration behind creating such a thoughtful memoir of your life?
My mother passed away in the summer of 2015. After her passing, I fell into a depression because I felt truly alone in the world. Being the only child of a single parent can do that to a person. I had my wife and kids with me but I still felt utterly alone, and I couldn’t shake it off.
My wife kept pushing me to discuss my thoughts and feelings, but I could not muster up the strength. I didn’t know how to discuss what I was experiencing. My wife suggested that I write my feelings down. For years, my wife has been telling me that she believes I’m a good writer. For years, I’ve been ignoring her compliments.
One night after dinner, she brought a letter to me. She handed me a piece of paper and asked me to open it. When I did, I saw that it was a letter I had written to her eight years ago. Eight years ago was when my wife and I first started dating, and one night she asked me over the phone, why I had joined the Army. I wrote her a letter and poured everything out on paper. It opened up the floodgates for me. That letter is now the first chapter of my book.
Do you remember what your idea of ‘America’ was as a child?
Because I began working at the age of seven, my idea of ‘America’ was that of tough living. It is hard for one to realize so young that his or her childhood is nothing like that of other kids. We were dirt poor and I had the full workload of an adult at the age of ten.
In time though, everything around me was a constant reminder of what else was possible in ‘America’. I knew there were better ways to make a living. At such a young age, I wanted to learn how to pursue my thoughts or dreams of a better life. I didn’t have time to dream of the next best toy or fun activity. I spent all my childhood dreaming and thinking of how to break my family cycle of picking crops for a living.
How did your outlook of ‘America’ change after your time in the US Army?
I must say that in many ways, the Army actually spoiled me. Although it increased my awareness of the harshness of life and the many challenges that it can impose on a person, it also continued to show me all the many possibilities available should one choose to work hard to achieve a desired goal. This only enhanced what I already believed as a kid. More so, I also learned of all the harsh realities of life and how people in other countries are in a far worse state than most of us here can ever possibly imagine or understand. I knew, after my military service, that we lived in the greatest country in the world. Even with all our faults and deficiencies, there is no comparison.
Being the son of a Mexican immigrant, was it hard for you to decide to become an agent in the US Border Patrol?
My decision to join the US Border Patrol was actually a fairly easy one. I was looking for something that would allow me to continue my government service. It’s important to note that my grandfather had never talked to us about his encounters with the US Border Patrol and thus played no role in my decision.
It wasn’t until after I had become an agent that I realized how my decision had impacted the entire family. It was a strange feeling and continues to be a delicate subject since I still have family that lives in Mexico and have not been able to visit them because of the dangers a visit from me would pose on them and even on me. With the violent cartel threat just across the border, it will be years before I can see my family again.
What is one stereotype that you think many Americans have of Mexican immigrants?
At this point in time, immigration has become a great issue for our country. With that said, the moment one begins to speak about immigration it is quickly considered to be a topic of Mexican immigrants and the ‘negative’ impact they have on our society.
I am an American Citizen by birth, but I do come from a Mexican Immigrant family and am now a Border Patrol Agent. I have to deal with criminals from every background one can possibly think of. As a federal agent, I don’t merely deal with immigration issues. I also deal with the issue of human trafficking and narcotics trafficking. In essence, I’m caught in the middle of the transaction.
I say this because in any transaction, there is a person providing a product and a person purchasing or demanding that product. I have to process undocumented individuals for deportation while at the same time prosecute the US Citizens that are committing the trafficking.
What role do you feel Mexican-Americans play in bridging the gap between these two countries?
I think we must all play the role of actual educators by way of providing facts and not opinions or emotional outbursts. I wrote a story in the book of an incident that happened to me while on the job as a Border Patrol Agent. The gentleman I encountered truly believed that he was above me simply because of my appearance and name tag. I chose to educate him and not escalate the situation with an emotional outburst. After that interaction, I earned the gentleman’s respect and he earned mine by showing me that he had learned the error in his thinking.
I’m a combat veteran who now has to deport people of my own Mexican Nationality because I have chosen to continue serving my country, the United States of America. And yet, I still have to educate people every single day of my patriotism and the struggles I’ve had to overcome in order to achieve the stability I now have.
Education is key.
“Being the only child of a single mother, Sergio was raised by his maternal grandparents in a South Texas region better known as the Rio Grande Valley. This memoir details the upbringing of a poor Migrant worker of Mexican descent having to pick crops for a living since the age of seven. As a way to break from the family cycle of picking crops and depending on government welfare programs, he joined the United States Army and served ten years active duty. He deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina shortly after the Bosnian War only to find and deal with the aftermath of the genocide that took place there and be caught in the middle of several attacks. His experiences in Bosnia ultimately led to experiencing signs and symptoms related to PTSD. After completing ten years of military service, Sergio joined the U.S. Border Patrol. Being of Mexican descent, having family in south Texas, and in Mexico gave way to new issues of having to counter threats against his family and ill-willed opinions of him for arresting and deporting “his own kind.””
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This collective memoir recounts the history of Sergio Tinoco, a migrant worker born in the USA accidentally, and his life as he maneuvers the complicated world of privileges and adventures. The storytelling is light and intuitive, offering a beautiful insight to the world of a maturing American trapped within a completely different frame-of-mind within his grandparents, who had raised him. As the years progress through Tinoco’s smooth narrative you see how his growth manifests in impressive ways as he joins the army and continues his life as a strong individual and proud American.
A tough beginning gives Sergio a critical and unique insight to the world that is clearly delivered through the narrative of the story, which is a tale about the author’s own beginnings and his growth into an adult. He was born into an immigrant family, having to be raised by his grandparents who were located in the US instead of his biological mother who was stuck in Mexico.
One aspect that is heavily played into in the beginning of the story is the itching desire to escape your hometown, your family, and reach a greater place. Most kids and teenagers feel this way, I believe, despite what kind of upbringing they had. It’s inspiring to read how that path opens up for a young soldier with such a rich background.
Fear and ambition is a common element in the history of Sergio, and the way he writes really draws readers in and lets them experience the emotions he feels during the twists and turns of his life. There are not many other characters aside from the storyteller, just brief occurrences of names and influences as years pass by in a beautiful trail of words and imagery. The narrative is quite similar to how our real lives unfold, full of minor characters and events that help mold and craft us into the people we stand as today. The same is true for Sergio, and the story is patriotic and full of struggles and achievements that you can share in while reading.
Every few pages readers are treated with an image of the author, sometimes accompanied by other family members and friends, or just of an action he has told us about. It’s a great way to connect with his audience and it really helped me get a picture of the life he lived and how it affected him.
Since I didn’t have an upbringing or lifestyle even remotely close to what Sergio’s environment, it was very interesting to read about, and I enjoyed the opportunity to learn about things foreign to me. The writing was thought-provoking, and I enjoyed the little instances of humor that were thrown in. Seeing the evolution of Sergio and his mindset over the years as he thinks back was a really enjoyable read, and I loved the way he painted vivid images and made me understand how his mind worked. A truly beautiful story.
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In His Way by Rebecca Duvall is a personal journey of her life and how she came to discover God. Duvall goes through many trials in her life. Everything that life could throw, divorce, children, financial situations, and serious illnesses, she faced. It is through this intimate journey you get to know Duvall, her family, and their troubles. You see how she evolves from struggling and thinking that she can only get through this alone and control everything to her discovery of letting go and letting in God. It was not an easy journey, but it is an honest one.
I enjoyed this book and could not put it down. In His Way took me on an emotional adventure. I felt for the author and her family because of the ups and downs they face. In the beginning, she states that she was not always positive and wrote that way. The story takes you through a raw, impassioned relatable telling. No one is perfect, and this book is a reminder of that. I love how honest she is. She held nothing back. She spoke of the resentment and hatred she harbored toward her husband. These were authentic feelings and thoughts expressed. You see how she goes from wanting to control everything to becoming understanding, appreciative, and cooperative. Duvall transforms, and it was all because she learned to talk to and accept God. My favorite part about this book is that you do not have to be religious to enjoy it. It is an uplifting, encouraging, and inspirational read.
Duvall’s narrative is strong. It was refreshing to read something where a person is faithful to the events, no matter how it paints them. There were plenty of moments where I was shocked at the mean things stated, but it was relatable. When you meet challenges in life, sometimes you are not the nicest person and make the wrong decisions or say things you do not mean. She does not hold back from that. She admits to many faults, and I admire her.
My only real complaint with the book was that there were some grammar mistakes and awkward phrasing. It also got a little slow toward the end but picked back up. Overall, I genuinely love it.
I learned a lot from reading this book. I learned that we let fears get in the way of our decisions. I also learned about communication and not bottling things up. One of the major things I took away from this is that if you are dedicated, you can get through something. I also found understanding in religion and people’s relationship with God in this. I related to Duvall so much because she went from not understanding or knowing God to praying, and I have learned more about God and understanding God in this book than going to church. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has lost their faith or anyone who have lost or looking to understand faith.
Pages: 280 | ASIN: B00MO01VIE
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The term “Paralian” comes from ancient Greek origins, and it has taken on the meaning of “people who live by the sea”. There could be no more apt title for Liam Klenk’s autobiography. In Paralian: Not Just Transgender, He recounts the sweeping and nomadic movements of his life via the lens of the rivers, lakes, and oceans by which he periodically makes a home. Water is the element of change and transition. It is also the element at the heart of so many human-nature entanglements; the resource that has always defined and guided the movements of our species. Fittingly for a tale of bodies, travels, transitions, and wandering, Klenk uses bodies of water to parse the sections of his life like chapters in a narrative.
The voice and experience of Liam Klenk is tender, vulnerable, and honest. It comes to the reader unassumingly and asks only for a patient ear. As the title would suggest, Paralian: Not Just Transgender tells a tale far wider in scope than Liam’s courageous journey through gender confirmation. If anything, the story is about the contexts that occur before, during, and afterwards. It tells the story of a human being finding his place in this world. It opens near the River Enz in Germany, with a young girl named Stefanie and illustrates how a complex and tumultuous family origin, vexes and feeds her inherent confusion over identity. At the end, the reader closes on a confident, middle-aged man named Liam who views the world through hopeful, optimistic eyes from an airplane above Hong Kong. In the intervening pages a transition obviously happens but—to the author’s point—so does a full life. As Stefanie becomes Liam, the reader is taken abroad from Germany to Seattle, from Zurich to Italy to Macao, and all points in between. What makes Klenk’s tale so necessary is that we get a story about a transgendered individual that articulates that while a singular aspect of his life was important, it by no means is the sole determinant of identity.
Regarding execution and readability, there are some pieces that could give readers trouble. As with many ESL authors, minor line-level similes and metaphors go overboard at times and actually distract the reader from the emotional intensity of scene and moment. The larger issue however is that Paralian: Not Just Transgender isn’t just a fascinating book, as it is several fascinating books mashed together. Because Life has no definitive plot, the best works of biography and creative nonfiction tend to follow an A-side/B-side construction in which real world chronologies and events are echoed and digested alongside another more metaphorical through line. Klenk’s book is framed around the metaphor of nomadic travels and bodies of water, but the device is often glanced over or abandoned entirely for lengthy sections. This leaves the prose, like it’s subject, to wander widely. Luckily for Klenk, his book is entertaining enough that its propensity to lose direction is easily forgiven.
Pages: 456 | ISBN: 1785891200
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Jason Hensley has taken a very difficult subject, filled with darkness and sorrow and brought forth a glimmer of light. There have been many history books written on the Holocaust from many perspectives, but Hensley has taken a fresh approach to the subject. Anyone studying this period of history knows the horrors that awaited the Jews under Hitler but few history books talk about the children that do survive. Even fewer talk about the people that made it so children of Jewish families could have a chance at life. Hensley’s focus in Part of the Family is on the children that were taken in by the Christadelphians families and their stories. Part of the Family is not your traditional history book filled with facts, rather it gives you a brief overview of who the Christadelphians are, and than a collection of mini biographies of some of the children. This is also the first book in a collection that Hensley is working on to fill the gap in this area of history.
Part of the Family gives a brief overview of who the Christadelphians are, and what they believe. It does not go deeply in-depth to make this a history of religion, rather just enough to give the reader an overview of the mindset of the families that foster these Jewish children. It documents the lives of nine children and their experiences with the Kindertransport. The families are not just from Germany, included are also families from Czechoslovakia, Austria, and Poland. The general format of the biographies are: brief overview of the climate that the children were born into for their time/location, the decline of their families situation, the Kindertransport, meeting their new families and their life with them, than after the fact. Hensley tries to give as much information on what happened to the families of these children, in some cases the children are reunited years later, however in most cases, the families do perish at the hands of the Nazis.
In describing the Christadelphians Hensley makes sure to emphasizes that despite their devote and very structured Christian beliefs, none of the families ever forced or pressured the children to convert. They lived with the families as if they were their own children, participating in all the activities, including daily bible readings and attending meetings with the family. However, none were forced to be baptized into the Christadelphians faith. While some did ultimately choose that path, it was of their own choosing when they were near adulthood. For the families that took in the Jewish children, this quote seams to sum up the way they treated the foster children, “Perhaps, then, one of the most important questions to ask ourselves is how our own beliefs affect our actions – and whether these beliefs are truly influencing our actions for good” (Hensley, 2016, p.182). This mentality of showing the children kindness and good in the world despite all the misery they had faced, influenced them all in positive ways. The children in this collection all went on to have fulfilling lives of their own and often kept in touch with their foster families.
This book gives a compassionate overview into this period of history. It shows that there are good people out there that do things simply because it’s the right thing to do. These are not children that went on to be famous or necessarily do great things, they are every day kids that suffered deeply and came out on the other side to make a life for themselves. Overall a great supplement to the standard history texts on the Holocaust and the start of a great project by Hensley to bring these stories to light.
Pages: 442 | ISBN: 1532740530
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