Title: Children of the Land
Author: Marcelo Hernandez Castillo
Release Date: January 28th 2020
- The writing – The excerpt above is just a small look at how powerful, imploring, and reflective Marcelo Hernandez Castillo’s memoir is. If I didn’t already know he was a poet, the lyrical language and the emotional depth of his words would have given him away. He is unguarded, laying himself bare to the reader. Sharing both external and internal struggles, Hernandez Castillo recounts crossing the border as a child, his contentious relationship with his father and the consequences of his subsequent deportation, growing up undocumented, forging a place for himself in a country that didn’t always feel like home, reconnecting with his father, and saying goodbye to his mother when options that would have allowed her to stay in the U.S. run out.
- Identity – As someone who lives on the outskirts of society Hernandez Castillo has spent his life grappling with his identity. Born in Mexico but raised in the US, but not a citizen, Hernandez Castillo has struggled to find his place. Conflicting questions arise: how do you give yourself wholly to a country that could kick you out at any moment? How can you belong to a country that you haven’t seen since you were a child, memories of which feel intangible?
- Parent-child relationships – Hernandez Castillo never had a good relationship with his father. He recounts how hard his father was on both his children and his wife. The target of his resentment toward America was often his children. Hernandez Castillo recalls the homophobic comments which would ring in his head years later when he was finally able to come to terms with his bisexuality. In contrast, Hernandez Castillo’s relationship with his mother was always one of affection. She worked hard to keep him and his siblings comfortable in a new country.
- Immigration and trauma – One of the most significant things this memoir does is consistently present immigration from the migrant’s perspective. Whether it is Hernandez Castillo as an undocumented immigrant in the U.S., his father being deported and then finally being eligible for reentry, the desperation felt by both him and his mother as they seek a way for her to stay, there is a degree of trauma that is rarely spoken of. Those who ask for help are forced to perform their trauma for a stranger in order to be granted assistance. It is a process that dehumanizes you and then turns around and demands you prove your humanity.
- Nothing to note.
Marcelo Hernandez Castillo’s Children of the Land is an essential read for those looking for more insight into the lives of the undocumented. It’s honest and often heartbreaking, but also a fierce plea to see and listen to those who in this country who are forced to keep silent.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★