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Madre and I: A Memoir of Our Immigrant Lives (Writing in Latinidad: Autobiographical Voices of U.S. Latinos/as) Paperback – May 27, 2010
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The illegitimate son of gutsy and high-spirited Chilean immigrants, Reyes faced challenges both typical of and different from those encountered by other young boys in his situation. Not only did he carry the stigma of his birth with him to his new country but as he entered puberty, Reyes began suffering from a debilitating shyness that destroyed his self-esteem. Add his coming-of-age as a homosexual during the height of the ultraconservative Reagan administration, and the odds of Reyes forging a productive and rewarding life seem insurmountable. Yet that he did, thanks in large part to his mother, Maria, whose unconditional belief in his abilities helped him define the American dream. Weaving the demoralizing circumstances of their previous life in Chile under the repressive Pinochet regime with their optimism for better conditions in the U.S., Reyes buoyantly captures the dichotomous essence of their roller-coaster experience. An associate theater professor and an award-winning playwright, Reyes spins a bittersweet homage to the courage passed from mother to son. --Carol Haggas
"Reyes had an atypical Latino immigrant experience that provides ample material for this entertaining and stirring memoir. He bares his soul—readers may occasionally feel they are Reyes's psychiatrist—as he tells his story of growing up in Chile, fatherless but with his father's name, and of his journey to Los Angeles, all the while coping with sexuality and body issues. But more than his own coming-of-age, this is the story of his mother, Maria, and her struggles, at times unconventionally approached, to provide a better life for her son. Reyes's recountings of his mother's and her family's adventures are the glue that holds this story together while he writes of shaping his own identity and finding his voice as a writer."—Library Journal
“Reyes, an accomplished playwright and theater professor, bares his soul with searing candor in this graceful memoir about growing up as a Chilean immigrant in America. . . .The author's honesty about coming to terms with his fears is expressed with a compelling combination of poignant honesty and rueful wit, a tone that infuses this spirited life story.”—Richard Labonte, Book Marks
“Reyes introduces readers to Chilean culture and history, the power of anxiety disorder, and the feelings of marginalization that accompany status as an immigrant and a gay man. . . .Madre & I is more than a coming-of-age story; it is a testament to coming to terms with the myriad labels placed on Reyes and moving beyond them to define who he is as a singular individual.”—ForeWord
“Guillermo Reyes’ smart, gentle memoir, Madre and I, deftly braids together the story of the author’s mother, who emigrates from Chile to the U.S., with his own story of growing up in both countries. . . .This touching memoir is an important edition to the canon of gay memoirs and brings Reyes’ queer Latino experience front and center as simply an American story.”—Charles Rice-Gonzalez, Lambda Literary
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Reyes arrived in the US as a young boy - following his single mother who immigrated a year earlier to work as a maid in the DC area - at a time when he already felt alienated from his peers, due to his dysfunctional upbringing and interests in things that pegged him as a sissy. By the time he became a teenager, he realized he was gay, which only added to his feelings that he needed to hide from his peers due to a negative body image and shame about his home life. In college he began writing plays and short stories, but lacked the confidence or focus to pursue his dreams of becoming a writer, or finding someone to love. Throughout it all, his mother, Maria, tried the right mix of patience and feisty tough-love to help her son grow to be the successful man she knew he could become, and Reyes fought his personal demons to make her proud of him.
An emotional and totally engrossing memoir of the talented author, playwright and college professor, "Madre & I" is remarkable coming-of-age tale in an context few of us can imagine. Four heartfelt stars out of five.
- Bob Lind, Echo Magazine
This challenged young man has become a successful academician and now department head at a top state university and has his own theater company.