Alejandra Campoverdi's incisive memoir, First Gen, explores the steep challenges facing Americans who strive to break generational cycles of poverty and struggle. A Latina daughter of immigrants, raised by a single mother (plus aunts and grandparents) in Los Angeles, Campoverdi has built a career that took her first to Harvard and then to the White House as an aide to President Obama. But she has continued to deal with the emotional and financial hardships of being what she calls a "First and Only"--"those of us who are the 'first generation' or the 'only' person in our family... to cross a threshold"--and her memoir provides a vivid, validating story for those who share her complicated experiences.
Campoverdi breaks down some common dynamics of being a First and Only, exploring them through the lens of her own life. By telling the stories of the women in her family and their entanglements with abusive men, she illustrates how what she terms "Invisible Inheritances" ("the bearing of emotional and behavioral patterns passed down by our ancestors") often can prove unhealthy. In her quest to build a career in policy work and journalism without a financial safety net or family connections, she engages in what she calls "Blindfolded Cliff Jumping." She fights against, ignores, and finally begins to come to terms with "Impostor Syndrome Plus" throughout her early life and career.
This powerful and down-to-earth memoir is a vital glimpse into a set of experiences common to many Americans, and it's a celebration of the strength found in owning every part of a multifaceted identity. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams