Jul 12, 2022

A TV writer chronicles his youth growing up unknowingly undocumented in the U.S.

In an affecting book he admits was “incredibly painful to write,” Agustin depicts his early life in the 1980s as the son of a mother and stepfather who were both doctors in economically challenged Ecuador. He grew up obsessed with DC Comics, Disney, the Lone Ranger, and “the Spanish-​dubbed version of the 1960s Batman TV show.” One day, he found out his aunt had asked the family to relocate to America via the family reunification program. Once ensconced in Southern California, where his classmates “just assumed Ecuador was a state in Mexico,” culture shock set in. Agustin and his family believed they would live “our vision of Americana,” but that disappointingly entailed his anesthesiologist mother walking miles to a cashier job at Kmart. While the author animates these episodes with robust pride, there is a lingering sense that this is not just a memoir about culture shock. The author eventually realized that his family had overstayed their tourist visas and planned on living in America as undocumented immigrants indefinitely. This oversight prevented his parents from enlisting in the military in an attempt to “rectify the immigration mess they found themselves in,” and the family anxiously scrambled to make ends meet and skirt authorities. Agustin’s struggles also encompassed aspects of racial identity as he sought to comprehend how being Latino fit into America’s rigid “Black and white paradigm.” It was only when the author tried to get a driver’s license without a Social Security number that his family’s status began severely jeopardizing their life in America. Balancing out the tense moments are heavy dollops of humor: recalling his grandmother’s use of Saran Wrap as a girdle, his first kiss in middle school, and exploring his love of theater throughout college. The blissful joy of full American citizenship and a successful career form the satisfying coda to this thoughtful, inspiring memoir.

Jul 1, 2022

“VERDICT An earnest and entertaining backstory to an accomplished creator, best suited to readers of celebrity memoirs, inspirational stories, and coming-of-age narratives.”

“Agustin, an award-winning TV writer (Jane the Virgin), shares a comedic and heartfelt memoir about discovering his undocumented status and how it shaped his childhood and young adult life. Born in Ecuador, Agustin went with his parents when they left behind their careers as doctors to seek the American dream. What follows is a rough and restless childhood constantly on the move, his immigrant family working hard to build a life while keeping their status secret. His teenage years are packed with youthful antics, American TV shows, and figuring out where an undocumented Latino boy belongs in a country where racism runs so deep. He eventually finds his answer in the performing arts. Agustin writes with a deft humor that juxtaposes poignant memories with wry observations, highlighting the people who showed him kindness and helped him carve out his successful career. Under its breezy tone, this memoir is an honest exploration of the stamina and sacrifices it takes to dream in spite of the violence of borders. “

Apr 15, 2022

Funny as he is, Agustin is a serious talent.

Television writer Agustin makes a splashy debut with this humorous account of coming-of-age, undocumented, in Southern California. Born in Ecuador to two doctors, Agustin arrived in the United States in the late 1980s at age seven, only to be disappointed that the America he’d watched obsessively on TV was nowhere to be found. While his parents struggled to juggle English classes with his father’s graveyard shifts as a sleep technician, Agustin writes, “Things seemed to be worse here than they were in Ecuador.” Meanwhile, Agustin wrestled with his identity, eventually coming to learn two life-altering things while attending public school: one, that he wasn’t white, and two, that he was undocumented—a revelation, he wittily recalls, “that was like an end-of-the-world-comet hitting my frosted-tipped head.” As he reckons with being “illegal” (his family came to the U.S. on tourist visas that expired) and traces his path to finding liberation through the world of acting, and, later, TV writing, Agustin offers poignant musings on the difficulties of existing in a country where the notion of race “is mostly understood as a Black and white paradigm.” What emerges is an inspiring and often hilarious story that echoes Agustin’s mother’s refrain: “Dreams should not have borders.”