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Vivian Pisano
Living in Two Worlds
Living in Two Worlds is a timely reflection about the repercussions of a child torn away from her native land, her father and her extended family, the resentment that builds up and poisons the mother/daughter relationship. It is a story of the search for identity and belonging in both the author’s native country, Chile, and her adopted country, the US.
A deliciously intimate memoir centered on illuminating the friction between two disparate worlds, Pisano’s debut opens with a delicately rendered portrait of her parents—her resolute, education-minded American mother and her charismatic Chilean father, a botany student who takes her mother back to Chile as soon as they are married. Pisano poignantly recalls her home country of Chile in conflicting terms—“beauty in such a serene and tumultuous landscape”—that in some ways mirror her mother’s inner turmoil upon her own arrival in an unfamiliar country, and those conflicting feelings are crystallized when Pisano (and her mother) return to California several years later, fracturing Pisano’s once singular world in two.

Pisano transforms the routine into memorable portrayals of daily life on the agricultural farm owned by her paternal grandparents in central Chile, and later, in the Californian suburb of Sacramento, where she lives with her grandmother on her mother’s side, a “lively, active [woman] with a no-nonsense attitude.” The contrast builds slowly and steadily but avoids the dramatic, leaving readers with fleeting impressions and ripples of unrest—“I was now the other, from a faraway, little-known, foreign, underdeveloped country”—and a subtle way of conveying both the rupture between Chile and the US as well as that between childhood and adolescence.

The crux of this memoir is Pisano’s silent and often strained relationship with her mother. Somewhere during the journey, Pisano starts blaming her mother for the removal from her native Chile, where she “belonged to a community and a large extended family,” and exposing her to an unknown environment where she desperately tries to blend in while feeling shame at what makes her so different. As their relationship transforms, Pisano works to assert her own identity, but always returns to the sentiment that “belonging feels foreign to me.” Backmatter includes family photographs for added intimacy.

Takeaway: A rewarding mother-daughter memoir about a girl’s search for belonging.

Great for fans of: Funny In Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas, In The Country We Love by Michelle Burford and Diane Guerrero.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A