Being the only child of a single mother, Sergio was raised by his maternal grandparents in a South Texas region better known as the Rio Grande Valley. This memoir details the upbringing of a poor migrant worker of Mexican descent having to pick crops for a living since the age of seven. As a way to break from the family cycle of picking crops and depending on government welfare programs, he joined the United States Army and served ten years active duty. He deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina shortly after the Bosnian War only to find and deal with the aftermath of the genocide that took place there and be caught in the middle of several attacks. His experiences in Bosnia ultimately led to experiencing signs and symptoms related to PTSD.
After completing ten years of military service, Sergio joined the US Border Patrol. Being of Mexican descent, having a family in South Texas, and in Mexico gave way to new issues of having to counter threats against his family and ill-willed opinions of him for arresting and deporting “his own kind.”
This collective memoir recounts the history of Sergio Tinoco, a migrant worker born in the USA accidentally, and his life as he maneuvers the complicated world of privileges and adventures. The storytelling is light and intuitive, offering a beautiful insight to the world of a maturing American trapped within a completely different frame-of-mind within his grandparents, who had raised him. As the years progress through Tinoco’s smooth narrative you see how his growth manifests in impressive ways as he joins the army and continues his life as a strong individual and proud American.
Fear and ambition is a common element in the history of Sergio, and the way he writes really draws readers in and lets them experience the emotions he feels during the twists and turns of his life. There are not many other characters aside from the storyteller, just brief occurrences of names and influences as years pass by in a beautiful trail of words and imagery. The narrative is quite similar to how our real lives unfold, full of minor characters and events that help mold and craft us into the people we stand as today. The same is true for Sergio, and the story is patriotic and full of struggles and achievements that you can share in while reading.
Every few pages readers are treated with an image of the author, sometimes accompanied by other family members and friends, or just of an action he has told us about. It’s a great way to connect with his audience and it really helped me get a picture of the life he lived and how it affected him.
Since I didn’t have an upbringing or lifestyle even remotely close to what Sergio’s environment, it was very interesting to read about, and I enjoyed the opportunity to learn about things foreign to me. The writing was thought-provoking, and I enjoyed the little instances of humor that were thrown in. Seeing the evolution of Sergio and his mindset over the years as he thinks back was a really enjoyable read, and I loved the way he painted vivid images and made me understand how his mind worked. A truly beautiful story.
It’s impossible not to be inspired by the author’s remembrance, which is both triumphant and frankly self-critical as he tells of striving to answer his calling to civic duty. During an era of contentious debate about immigration, especially regarding immigrants from Mexico, Tinoco provides a fascinatingly complex perspective as a first-generation American citizen. Readers may also give his observations additional weight due to his later experience (and current position) as a border patrol agent. The prose is sometimes unpolished—for example, as grueling as his work was as a child, he was not “literally breaking my back”—but it still remains clear and poignant throughout.
A candid recollection of a challenging but rewarding life.
Proud American by Sergio Tinoco is a fascinating, heartwarming memoir of a migrant soldier and federal agent. The only child of a single mom, Sergio grew up with his grandparents in Rio Grande Valley. At the age of seven, he does the kind of work reserved for poor migrants — picking crops. The reader follows as his grandfather urges him to study English and take an interest in school. Sergio would break an old tradition — that of migrants doing work in the fields — when he joins the US Military and gets sent to Bosnia-Herzegovina. The experience of the genocide is one that will have very devastating effects on his life. The reader follows this hero as he returns to join the patrol at the border.
A well-told tale, Proud American is one of those stories that succinctly captures what it takes to succeed as a migrant in the United States. Many immigrant workers will connect with the protagonist, understand his inner struggles and the challenges he faces. The author deals with powerful themes in a masterful manner — family, childhood, the dignity of work, the effects of war, loyalty, patriotism, and justice — and the conflict that creates the dynamics of this tale revolves around these themes. The narrative voice is compelling and the perspective of the protagonist comes across clearly in the writing. Sergio Tinoco didn’t only learn to speak English; he learned to write it excellently. Proud American is a memoir that showcases the challenges of successfully being a migrant in the US. It is entertaining and engaging.
In my own humble opinion, there are only two questions you have to ask in order to know whether or not a memoir is good. Did the person live an interesting life? And can the person write? If you get a yes for those two questions, the book is a winner. I’m not talking about sales, that’s a whole different ball game. I’m talking about having a book that no one will ever regret picking up to read. A book anyone would be proud to recommend to their closest friends. I’m talking about a book your children and their children can pass down for generations to come. Proud American: The Migrant, Soldier, and Agent by Sergio A. Tinoco tells the story of a proud American and a very interesting life. And despite amusing anecdotes about his struggle to learn English as a child, make no mistake about it, Sergio A. Tinoco can write. He writes very well indeed.
I almost couldn't help but like Proud American. The life it describes so vividly and descriptively in many ways mirrors my own. Don’t get me wrong; there are a lot of differences. But still, we both grew up as minorities in America. We both used the Army to break away from a cycle of life we felt was going nowhere. But the similarity I enjoyed reading about most was the fact that his family disapproved of him joining the Army. Mine were adamantly against it too. Proud American is very well written and the life he writes about, at least the Army segment, is familiar to me and brought back so many memories. We served in different arenas at different times, but Army life transcends that and Sergio Tinoco captured that universal quality well.
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.
At age seven, I knew very little English and not nearly enough to interpret what was being said on the news. Yet, I was expected to interpret everything as though I were an English professor. So I did what any other kid my age and in my position would do in order to survive this ordeal, I would watch the television screen and come up with my own stories to tell my grandfather. The stories would of course depend entirely on the images on the screen. With the regular news, this tactic actually worked and kept me out of trouble.
I remember struggling to contain myself, but the National Anthem had taken over me, it had overpowered my entire being and I could do nothing about it. I thanked GOD and yet, I also asked for forgiveness. Forgiveness for not being able to save all the kids that night. Forgiveness for having to shoot back and taking the lives of others who had been conditioned to hate us for no reason other than not sharing the same faith. I begged GOD for forgiveness because I had cursed him so many times in my sleepless nights as I asked and asked for answers while I felt that I had not received any. Lastly, I cried more as I thanked Him for allowing me to come back home and be able to see my son.
Something unexpected took place when I first moved back to the city of Weslaco, Texas. I went to go visit my dad (grandfather). I wanted to spend some time with him and I was curious to know what he thought of my new job. My mother was supportive, but also a bit concerned. She was still living in Reynosa, Mexico at the time and she wasn’t too sure on how to address my new employment. Could she talk about it with her friends or was the topic completely off limits? What would her friends think of the fact that her only son’s new job was to catch and deport Mexicans who were living in the U.S. illegally? I had not considered what my family would think about my choice in career. Living so close to the border and still having family living in Mexico made things a bit strange. In general, everyone was happy that I was finally going back home. I had been away from the Rio Grande Valley for twelve years. They just had some mixed emotions about the job I now had. They were proud, but a bit hesitant to be “excited” about it.
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