KPBS Journalist Jean Guerrero Traces Family History In New Memoir 'Crux'
KPBS listeners know reporter Jane Guererro as the journalist at our foreign terrorist desk covering stories along the U.S. Mexico border working that beat has taken Jeanne across the border to Tijuana and beyond and into the desert tracing hazardous and sometimes deadly migrant routes. But during all this Jeanne Guerrero has been working on a book about her childhood her family and most especially her father a Mexican immigrant who she calls the ultimate migrant who crosses borders both real and illusory. Her book Kroc's has already won the PEN fusion emerging writers Prize and now it's having its official launch here in San Diego. It's a pleasure to welcome Jean Guerrero author of Crux a cross border memoir. Jane welcome. Thank you so much for having me. You say your father Marco Antonio crossed borders real and illusory. What does that mean. My father when I was growing up with a really great mechanic. He knew how to line breaks. He knew how to start a fire from scratch. He was just a really scientific person who saw through to the mechanics and the physics of everything. He taught himself English by sneaking books into the shipyard where he worked before I was born in NASCO. So he had this really scientific this really really literary side but he also had this side of him where he eventually became convinced that the CIA was after him and did things like wrap himself up in aluminum foil and travel across continents trying to get away from the CIA. So he was always crossing borders literal and metaphysical. Did this bend kind of reality affect you growing up it did you know this book is something that I've been wanting to write in some form or another since I was little girl. I just have these really vivid memories from childhood of him being really involved father full of wonder and curiosity and playfulness. He would take me outside and point out different things in nature. I have this memory of him taking me to the Baja California coast and pulling things out of the Tidepools like a little hermit crabs and seaweed and placing them in my hands and telling you what they were called. So we were just discovering the natural world together and then that was gone. He started sleeping all day. He became convinced that the CIA was after him and my mother told me that he had paranoid schizophrenia and my father had his own explanation his fantastical tales about the CIA and at the time when I was a child I didn't know I didn't know what had happened. All I knew was that whatever had happened had taken my father away from me and it's something that has I guess obsessed me ever since then and I've always known that I had to figure it out. Now in croc's we learn a lot about your father but you also introduce us to a number of relatives we meet your mother who you told us as a doctor your grandmother your paternal great grandmother who is a clairvoyant. What were some of the most surprising things you learned about your family's history. The surprises were the parallels that I found between my living family and my dad family. The great great grandmother that you mentioned she was a good and clairvoyant. In southern Mexico who is paid to commune with spirits people from far away would go visit her allegedly to commune with the dead and she abandoned her three sons to fight in the Mexican Revolution in her capacity as a clairvoyant and I just found it really interesting to note her kind of fleeing and leaving her sons behind and my own my father's own departure from my life. And I think that's really what writing memoirs is about is identifying the patterns that repeat themselves see the generations. Particularly the destructive ones and trying to uproot them. That was what it was about for me. Not only is the story that you tell in Kroc's compelling Jean but your writing is really beautiful. Thank you. Could you read a short section for us. Of course with his camcorder Poppy blended images of my face with flowers and of my mother's face with the sea he captured his mother at the New Guinea city sitting proudly in her office chair. My father's filming was unusually expressive featuring sunsets cloud formations bird flights. I study his attentive eye for the poetry of light and contours his descriptive curiosity at its cracks. What happened to this person. I did my hands into the dark sea of the past and all I grasp are questions that's Jean Guererro reading from her memoir cracks in the book you point out the Mexican versus American perception of things since you live and work a cross-border life. How do you deal with that difference. I mean for me it's not even really about dealing with it it's all I know. I've had a sense of living in multiple worlds all my life not just in terms of crossing the border on a regular basis to visit my family in Mexico but also just in terms of the duality between my mother and my father. I mean my mother is a doctor. She was always this very by the books person and my father was my father completely anti-establishment. Some would say anti reality and trying to find that line between them is something that I've just always been a part of of who I am since I can remember now journalists are taught to keep themselves out of the story for the most part. Yet in this book Kroc's you reveal some deeply personal things about yourself. How does it feel to put yourself out there like that. I feel like I didn't really have a choice because I mean a lot of people have asked me like isn't it. Are you concerned about what people are going to say because I do I include in the book some ugly parts of myself. You know I I I. When I was a teenager I was trying to recapture my father by sort of conjuring him and myself and I was experimenting with drugs and deeding juvenile delinquents and even in my career as a journalist I had a tendency early on to put myself in hostile environments sneaking into opium poppy plantations and smuggling routes and so I've always had this journalistic inclination and I think it comes this inclination to document the world and to share my world with others and I think it comes from my father. He was always carrying around this bulky Panasonic camcorder when I was a child I have dozens of VHS tapes that I used in part to write this book. And he just had this obsession with recording and with documenting everything and that's that's something that I think he gave me. I think that's part of where my my journalistic impulse to document comes from. Now you're embarking on promoting the book. Are you gearing up for that. I am yes I'm just I'm trying to meditate I guess because it's something that I've been working on for so long and I'm so excited to share it with the world. K PBS is Jane Guererro will be holding two events this week for her book A cross-border memoir she will be at war Ric's in La Jolla tonight at 730 and at La Bodega gallery on Thursday night. The book is Crux crossborder memoir and Jeanne thank you for talking to us about it. Thank you so much.
As an investigative journalist for KPBS News, Jean Guerrero covers life along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Working that beat has taken Guerrero across the border to Tijuana and beyond. She trekked into the desert tracing dangerous migrant smuggling routes.
Throughout her career as a journalist and even before, Guerrero has been writing a book about her childhood, her family and most especially her father, a Mexican immigrant who she calls the “ultimate migrant” who crosses borders both real and illusory.
The book, "Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir," is Guerrero's quest to understand her father, who she credits for giving her a journalistic inclination.
"This inclination to document the world and to share my world with others, I think it comes from my father. He was always carrying around this bulky Panasonic camcorder when I was a child. I have dozens of VHS tapes that I used in part to write this book. And he just had this obsession with recording and documenting everything. And that's something that I think he gave me, I think that's part of where my journalistic impulse to document comes from," Guerrero said.
In 2016, Guerrero won the PEN/Fusion Emerging Writers Prize for “Crux.”
Guerrero discussed her new book Tuesday on Midday Edition. She will also be speaking at Warwick's bookstore in La Jolla Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m.