"I could feel my body trembling and at the same time becoming rigid. My lips and feet felt as if they were being besieged by ants."

Immigration is much in the news these days. There seem to be constant differences of opinion about who, how many, and when, people from different countries should be allowed legal entry into the United States. There’s even discussion about making judgments based on the financial, educational, and specialized skills of potential entrants. Those having such discussions would do well to read Dr. Hernandez’s book. Were they to do so, they would see that even those from severely dire economic conditions possess enormous human potential that can be beneficial to generations of Americans for decades to come.

Hernandez’s book is more than the autobiography of a highly successful surgeon. It is a story of hardship, obstacles, and indefatigable perseverance. The chronicle begins in the 1950’s when Hernandez is a young boy living in a small Mexican community beside the Pacific Ocean. His tiny home houses his parents and multiple children, who trod dirt floors inside and have to go outside to use the bathroom. But love is always present there, and it instills in the boy a passion for family that will never leave him.

The author’s older brother, then living and working in the United States, comes home for a visit. His presence ignites a fire in the lad to follow in his sibling’s footsteps. Yet, leaving the bosom of his family fills him with mixed feelings—particularly the thought of leaving his beloved grandfather. Still, ambition burns within him, and when his father dies, Hernandez makes the decision to eventually join his big brother back in the United States.

Eventually, the older sibling returns to Mexico to take Hernandez back to America. Thus begins the story of a journey across Mexico to the border town of Nogales. There, they work with an intermediary skilled in the complicated legal forms required to move from one country to another. Finally, when all looks as if it’s in order for him to immigrate to his new country, circumstances conspire to thwart Hernandez’s entry. With their resources gone, the brothers hatch a plan to get the boy across illegally. But once in the U.S., constant fear of deportation, a nagging conscience, and an uncompromising sense of right and wrong spur them to return to Mexico and do whatever it takes to come to America lawfully.

Throughout his tale, Hernandez uses a common literary technique of interspersing moments from the present—in this case, his medical practice—that awaken memories from his life’s journey. Whether writing as an adult or recreating the emotions and dreams he had as a child, the author does an excellent job of telling a story that’s both suspenseful and compelling—all the more so because it’s true. Hernandez’s life story is a testament to determination, scholarship, and resolve. His rise from poor boy in a Mexican seaside village to award-winning surgeon in the sprawling metropolis of Phoenix, Arizona, shows that America has much to gain by making sure immigration continues to make room for those who can make a positive difference in peoples’ lives. 

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