Jean Guerrero grew up knowing her father as a paranoid schizophrenic.
To better understand him and his story, the USC alumna wrote “Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir” and returned to USC to debut her book at a talk at Wallis Annenberg Hall Tuesday.
Guerrero’s book rejects the notion that the world is composed of dualities. Using the underlying metaphor of crossing the border from Mexico to the U.S., Guerrero said the writing process taught her that human beings should never be labeled or stereotyped.
Guerrero said her father, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, always told her stories of his alleged travels to “escape CIA operatives.” Because of her father’s condition, Guerrero believed it was her job to learn more about his past.
“I felt that it was my duty as his daughter and as a journalist to investigate the possibility that what he said was true,” Guerrero said.
While Guerrero was conducting research for her book, she learned to separate journalistic work from her obsession with her father and the parallels she found between their lives.
“I started being extremely self-destructive, experimenting with drugs, self-mutilating, and I saw the book as an opportunity to finally separate myself from my father,” Guerrero said.
During the talk, Guerrero focused on a chapter depicting the garden her family tended during her childhood. She said that the animals they owned began to die when her father became depressed. According to her, the excerpt was written to link the lives of the animals to the loss of their main caretaker, her father.
“My awareness of death arose from my father’s deterioration,” Guerrero said.
Guerrero explained that developing her book involved a lot of research and traveling, including going to Mexico to learn more about her father’s past, especially his childhood. Through her research, Guerrero discovered that her father’s great-grandmother was clairvoyant.
Although his great-grandmother was praised and celebrated for her ability to “speak to spirits,” Guerrero said she thought it was ironic how her father was viewed as ill and dangerous for telling similar stories.
“The book is all of the different rabbit holes I went into trying to figure out the truth about what was going on with my father,” Guerrero said. “One of those rabbit holes included going to Mexico where he’s from and learning that he had a great grandmother who was allegedly a curandera, clairvoyant … but she was attributed with having a gift, whereas my father was always seen as having an illness.”
Guerrero hopes that her book will allow readers to feel less lonely and imbue them with a sense of hope. She also said she wants readers to reflect on the idea that reality is never as simple as it seems, and that people must open themselves up to different perspectives and outcomes.