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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The Diary of Hakim Jones by Joseph Khalid Massenburg is a fictional tale of a young man’s childhood in one of America’s most violent neighborhoods, Newark, NJ. Through trial and error he discovers that with determination and dedication, he can turn life around and successfully achieve a dream he never thought possible.
This is a story of hardship and struggle. It is an interesting tale of transcending one’s hardships. The main character experiences the flaws in human nature throughout his life. It is told through a diary like set up, as if the main character was reflecting on his past life, where he had been and where he is going. The entries spanned different times in the narrator’s life from childhood/teenage years, his career as a cop, and his career as a journalist. The tone and style is set as a conversation, as if the reader is sitting with the narrator listening to him daze off thinking about the past.
There are several grammatical errors throughout the story ranging from capitalization, missing or wrong words, spelling errors, to verb tense and spacing. I’m unsure if this was done intentionally, but the magnitude of these errors made it difficult to understand what was being said. There didn’t seem to be an organized sequence of time; each entry jumps around rather than focusing on specific things. While the random feel of the entries make it a little harder to read, it feels more realistic. Not many people reflect on their past in a specific timeline.
Some entries seemed to tell the same story but with different word choices, but this could be because different stories overlap one another. Some things in the story were shocking, such as an entry where the narrator describes a time when he realized a woman he had relations with turned out to be his niece from a half sister he never knew about. It felt unrealistic, even though things like that occasionally do happen. The narrator speaks at length about learning lessons from life experiences, and even learning from other people’s life experiences like family members making the wrong choices.
The book has some downfalls but at it’s core is an inspirational tale that gives hope to those facing the same struggles. It provides wisdom and sage knowledge gained through experience. In The Diary of Hakim Jones the main character looks back on his life and adds reflective commentary and helpful insights such as “in order to move forward successfully a positive attitude and mind set is vital.” Statements like these stick with a reader more than a writer describing how they overcame their hardships. Throughout the story I enjoyed the narrators commentary on regrets he had in life and wishing he could do something different.
If the grammatical errors were corrected I would recommend this book to anyone, not just those residing in an inner city. It has something that everyone could benefit from.
Pages: 188 | ASIN: B00ZW4JIQ6