What is it like to be an immigrant in the United States of America? Iris Gomez’s novel “Try To Remember” is based upon the immigrant experience of herself and others and sheds some light on the issue for readers. The author invites us to view the world through the eyes of adolescent Colombian immigrant Gabrielita (Gabi for short), growing up in Miami sometime in the middle of the 20th century. Gabi and her family are faced with a wide range of struggles such as language barriers, cultural differences, financial difficulties, seperation from extended family, dealing with mental illness, drugs, and domestic violence.
Perhaps the most telling moments of the book occur when Gabi’s brothers get into a brutal fight at home while her parents are out and she calls the police out of fear for their safety. After one of the boys is taken into custody, Gabi is scolded for getting the authorities involved. This is obviously a comment on the fact that immigrants must constantly worry about the possibility of deportation and are hesitant to contact law enforcement for any reason, making them much more susceptible to being victims of violent and/or property crimes.
Reading “Try To Remember” is an excellent way to step in the shoes of our immigrant neighbors during a time in which many forces in our country would have us direct our anger and angst in their direction as though they were the source of our own suffering. Being able to identify effectively with others is a basic tenet of nonviolence and Gomez’s novel based on real life is succesful at revealing the humanity in the immigrants we share our country with. The story is easy to read, entertaining, and the characters are likeable. The message is subtle but timely. Reading and sharing this book with family and friends is a great way to generate some healthy discussion on the immigration issue.