Saturday, September 01, 2018

Crux : A Cross Border Memoir by Jean Guerrero, reviewed by Antonio SolisGomez

My wife was hearing Crux, an audio book by Jean Guerrero, a Mexiricana, and her comments prompted me to look for reviews on the Internet. I was so intrigued by the unusual title and by the reviews that I ended up buying and reading the hardback copy.

It’s an unusual book, ostensibly the story of her efforts to understand her Mexican born father who in her childhood is her primary caretaker because her MD mother is the breadwinner. During those early years Jean builds a strong attachment with him because he is so charismatic, creative, loving and doting. Suddenly the father begins to withdraw from her and her sister, locking himself in his room and literally shunning contact with everyone.

Thus begins her journey that results in a book that is fascinating because of the many layers that she lays down for the reader to explore, making it easy to understand why my wife’s comments as well as the reviews are not in agreement about its contents.

The author is an individual that has a rich and extensive interior life, which she imparts with great facility and beauty of language in the first half of the book. It is an unusual ability in such a young person and supports her father’s assertion that she is an old soul. And what this means in the parlance of the New Age, is a soul that has incarnated numerous times, hundreds perhaps thousands of times.

Further evidence of her father’s perception of her is provided when she has a mind altering experience when she sits quietly in her room and concentrates on the word nothingness, her mind expanding beyond her body and encompassing the entire universe, feeling as if she is one with the Creator. Such religious experiences of ecstasy do not come to everyone; they are reserved for saints, sages and old souls.

The first half of the book is therefore very autobiographical and the reader comes to know Jean quite well, especially her attachment to her father and the emptiness she feels because of his physical and emotional withdrawal. Her Puerto Rican mother who is a regular MD who provides a name for her husband condition: Schizophrenia, without the actual training to make such a diagnosis.

The father is quite intelligent and capable and in his youth wanted to study medicine. He is mostly self-educated, a wiz at anything mechanical, an expert in homeopathic medicine and tenacious when he is motivated to accomplish something. Nevertheless, he faces obstacles and severe challenges that force him to abandon projects and sink into his aberrant behavior. He is finally asked to leave the house by his wife when Jean is six because he has started using Crack and is putting the girls in danger.

Many readers that are intimate with Mexican norms and expectations can sympathize with the father, who has been relegated to a stay at home father/husband because his wife is the sole provider. And it’s not that he doesn’t try to contribute and the inception of his disconnect from his family begins when he is ousted from a successful family business by a younger half sister.

The mother, driven to success cultivates the same virtues in her daughters but it is only Jean that embraces them in her core personality. Jean consistently makes A’s in school until she enters high school and there becomes one of many bright students. It is then that she begins to experiment with sex and drugs and has another mind altering experience with the drug Ecstasy, similar to the ones she experiences with the chant Nothingness.
Jean and her Papi

In the second half of the book, she has gone to college and becomes the writer that she has wanted to be from early childhood. She has an opportunity to get assigned to Mexico as a journalist and along with her father embarks on a discovery of his family roots. A good portion of it is written in the second person in writing about her father such as “you worked as a burner”. In this section she tells the compelling story of her dad’s family, a saga with drama and pathos in a very journalistic style

It is in Mexico that she first learns that her father is thought of as a shaman by some of the family. This comes as a great to surprise to Jean but she doesn’t totally dismiss the idea especially when she discovers that her great grandmother was a curandera and a seer. Neither has she dismissed her father’s belief that the CIA is pursuing him and attempting to control his mind for some time. In an act of empathy with her father, she has delved deeply into his fears and pulled official records of mind control experiments conducted by the CIA.

While in Mexico, Jean meets her cousin Eddie who is well versed in Mexican and Mayan history, especially regarding the Mayan belief that in 2012 Earth and Humanity transitioned into the fifth dimension. It is Eddie that guides Jean in trying to understand her father’s shamanic gifts.

She is fearless not only in recounting the story of her family but also of herself, disclosing some of her sexual adventures, the exchanges she had with her maternal grandparents who thought she was spoiled and disrespectful. However when she nearly drowns in a riptide that carries her far out into the ocean she has a resultant fearfulness that mars her confidence and sense of self. It takes her time to regain that fearlessness and one of her therapeutic measures is to swim in Cenotes.

 A Cenote

It is gratifying to read a Latina author who did not grow up in a humble dwelling in the barrio. She was economically privileged living in a nice home with nannies that cared for her and who did all the household chores. She went to private schools, received a horse for a birthday present and took riding lessons for years. But she is definetly a Latina, Spanish was her first language, she has traveled and lived in Mexico and she writes from the perspective of a Latina.
What is the meaning of the title which means cross “Crossings into madness; Crossings into trance states and parallel worlds; Crossings of ethnicities; Crossings into life and crossings into death.” And then there are of course crossings of the border and there are many of those as she recounts the saga of her father’s family.

The author does not have a definitive opinion as to the questions of her father's true nature: is he a shaman that lives in the fifth dimension, has the CIA experimented on him and pursued him half way around the world. There is something of value for a diverse audience in this beautiful book and it is highly recommended.


Daniel Cano said...

Antonio, thank you. You review makes me want to run out and buy the book.

Daniel Cano said...

Whoops. I meant "your".