Reviewed by Kathryn Bennett for Readers' Favorite
Proud American: The Migrant, Soldier, and Agent is the memoir of author Sergio Tinoco. He was the only child of a single mother and was raised by his grandparents in South Texas. The area he grew up in is commonly called the Rio Grande Valley. Sergio grew up a poor migrant worker, who started earning a living by picking crops at the age of seven. Sadly, his family also had to make use of the public systems in place to help poor Americans, welfare as most call it. Sergio suffered all the judgment and stigma that goes along with that. Sergio didn't want his entire life to be that way, he wanted to break the cycle, so he joined the United States Army. Life would lead him further down a trail, a trail that would not always be the easy road to travel.
I really enjoy memoirs and decided at the start of this year I wanted to try to read at least one every three months. It is easy to grab the latest celebrity memoir, but I find that I enjoy memoirs from the everyday regular “Joe” more. So I was very excited to be given the opportunity to read this memoir by Sergio Tinoco, not only because it's a memoir, but it really seems to be so relevant right now in the times in which we are living. I found this to be a beautiful, well written memoir that took me on the journey of a man's life. I felt like I was walking right next to Sergio as he experienced his life. Not only is the author brave, kind, willing to sacrifice, but he has a talented way with words. There are not many memoirs that make me feel as if I am just sitting in a coffee shop and talking with the writer. I can't imagine how it feels to have people make threats against his family, and having those same decent people essentially hating him because of his job at border patrol.
This book is riveting and engaging from the first page to the last. I enjoyed every moment and honestly was sad when it was over. We need more people like the author in the world, and most of all in the country. Despite not always being treated fairly or well, he raised himself up, bettered himself, and served. Ten years of service and PTSD were not enough to keep Sergio away from serving this country more. I have never personally seen what can happen with border patrol agents, but from my understanding it is a pretty thankless job, especially for a man like Sergio who has Mexican heritage. There isn't really much else I can say about this fantastic memoir; it is truly engaging and I think everyone in this country needs to read it. To hear a voice that has literally been there, on the front lines for many years. Reading this book truly will open your eyes and the fact that the writing style is conversational and well done is just icing on top of an already great cake.
Reviewer: Michelle Dwyer
Proud American is a personal memoir chronicling the life of the author from migrant worker to successful border patrol agent. The book’s premise focuses on the author’s hard work and patriotism to the United States of America in the years he has served as a public servant.This is a very honest look at the author’s life, and readers can gain some valuable insight into the life of struggle.The touch of humor, whether intended or not, adds a warm element to the memoir that many veterans can relate to.
The chapters focusing on the U.S. Border Patrol are enlightening. While some civilians have a fair grasp of military life, many probably have no clue as to what border patrol agents go through and what they see every day. Many people can resonate with joining the military to escape a life they either dislike, or seems like a long road to nowhere. The author hits on many points that describe emotions that an exclusive collection of people feel.
This is a touching, heartfelt story of survival and overcoming struggle. In many ways, it touches on tolerance and equality. These are bonus elements to this story. The memoir exemplifies the idea of the American Dream.
Sergio A. Tinoco’s has countless stories about his experiences as a migrant worker, a military veteran and as a federal employee working on the border, that he turned them into a memoir.
Tinoco, 42, is the author of “Proud American” a book that captures the life of a migrant, soldier and federal agent. His book is an emotional tale of growing up along the border, leaving the Rio Grande Valley to join the military and then returning to start a career and family. His story is familiar to many living in deep South Texas.
Tinoco, who was born in Pharr, lived in Reynosa until he was 6. His mother moved him to the colonias outside of Weslaco to live with his grandparents because she wanted him to have an American education.
That would mean a life as a migrant worker, which Tinoco despised. For most of his family, that was just the way it was.
“There had to be a better way,” he would tell himself. He joined the military partly because he didn’t want to work in the fields anymore.
The Monitor recently caught up Tinoco to discuss his book. He will have a book signing at 6 p.m. Saturday at Barnes and Nobles at 3300 Expressway 83 in McAllen. The first 50 people receive a “Proud American” shirt.
Q: Why did you write the book?
A: The book sort of happened. I was essentially writing for myself. It was more of a therapeutic type thing. My wife always said I was good at writing. The first chapter of the book, actually, is a letter I had sent to my wife seven years go. Seven years ago she read it and said, “This is good; you should continue with it.” I didn’t. I just left it there. I want to say about 11/2 years ago my wife pulled out the letter and goes, “Hey, remember this.”
I read it again and it did something to me, and my mom had just past away.
Being an only child, I took it just a little rough. I guess I felt all alone even though I had my wife and kids with me. I felt like (writing the book) was like getting something off my chest. I never told her of the stuff I did in the military. When I deported, I told her I was going on a training mission. I kept that from her. There was so much left unsaid. I just started writing. I felt like I had to get it off my chest. It became a book eventually.
Q: Once you started writing, did it happen quickly?
A: When I started writing, it just flowed out. I couldn’t stop once I started. I guess I can describe it as pent up feelings you have had so long and all of sudden you just burst and just let it all out. I couldn’t stop, quite honestly. The few times I did stop was because what I was writing was so emotional I had to pull away from it.
Q: What was one of those emotional stories?
A: When I was a kid, I was a very skinny kid. I didn’t like to fight or confrontation. Every time I would visit my mom on the weekends in Reynosa, the kids I had grown up with up there until the age of 6 now saw me as an outsider. Every time I went there I was getting beat up. One day, my mom witnessed three kids beating me up. She just stood there. I heard her yelling but she was yelling at me instead of the kids that were beating me up. She said, “If you don’t defend yourself, I’m going to spank you once they’re done with you.” It did something in me and I started defending myself. I got so emotional during that confrontation; I actually beat up the three kids. I was crying and full of rage and anger. I saw it as, “why was I pushed to this level?”