AN AMERICAN IMMIGRANT by Johanna Rojas Vann
GENRE: Women’s Fiction (Christian)
RELEASE DATE: August 15, 2023
A Colombian American journalist tries to save her career by taking an assignment somewhere she never thought she’d go—Colombia—in this heartwarming debut novel about rediscovering our family stories.
“A beautiful homage to a mother’s bravery and to the grace and grit that is our inheritance.”—Alicia Menendez, MSNBC anchor and creator and host of the Latina to Latina podcast
Twenty-five-year-old Melanie Carvajal, a hardworking but struggling journalist for a Miami newspaper, loves her Colombian mother but regularly ignores her phone calls, frustrated that she never quite takes the time to understand Melanie’s life. When the opportunity arises for a big assignment that might save her flagging career, Melanie follows the story to the land of her mother’s birth. She soon realizes Colombia has the potential to connect her, after all these years, to something she’s long ignored: her heritage, the love of her mother, her family, and the richest parts of herself.
Colombia offers more than a chance to make a name for herself as a writer. It is a place of untold stories.
Inspired by real-life events, An American Immigrant is a story of culture and community, of abiding commitment to family, and of embracing our culture and the generations that have come before.
“Who would have known that in just one generation, with one simple decision, everything could change?”
There are some books that make you happier for reading them, lifting your heart while you’re in those pages and maybe lingering with you because of a story or characters well-told. And then there are some books that do all of the above but also change something in you, for the better, words that will shape you from this point forward. An American Immigrant is one such book.
This is a difficult review to write because I have so many feelings fighting for dominance and it’s hard to sort out what I want to say and what I want to let you discover for yourself. But, in short, this is a beautifully-written story of choices that had ripple effects, of missteps that weren’t wasted, and of family roots. Vann’s writing voice draws you in from the very beginning, easily getting you invested in Melanie’s career and her trip to Colombia – and then shifting the spotlight to one that’s shared with her mother’s past experiences as a young immigrant to America many years before. And tucked away in this poignant look at a mother and daughter’s respective journeys is a most profound message – What stories have we been missing because we don’t take the time to ask, to research, to dig, to listen? Stories about where we come from, about where the person next to us comes from… stories with the power to change the trajectory of our lives (as the author mentions in her note at the end of the book). I needed that reminder to look for and listen to the stories of the people in my path. How about you?
Alba (aka Melanie’s Abuela / grandmother) deserves her own full review (lol) but I’ll force myself to stop at this: I loved her so very much. She made me laugh, she made me teary, and she quite simply delighted me. Her vibrant spirit, her stubborn will, her resilience, and even the twinkle in her eye reminded me not only of my maternal grandmother (as American as they come) but also of the ‘bonus’ grandmothers God blessed me with as I taught beginner English to immigrants and refugees from all over the world for over ten years in Kentucky. Including precious Olga from Peru who became my abuela in every way but genetics (in fact, my social media handle is a nod to my querida Olga and what she always called me, with an Alba-like twinkle in her eye and the sweetest smile on her face ♥).
Bottom Line: An American Immigrant by Johanna Rojas Vann is fresh and compelling, with layered characters and a vitality that leaps off the pages in bursts of vivid color, lively music and tantalizing aromas. Melanie’s journey to see Colombia through her family’s eyes, to learn her mother’s immigrant story, to find her own purpose, and to somehow share those perspectives with the world touched me deeply, in large part because of my own work with immigrants and refugees. It really resonated with my heart. But even if you don’t have experience or roots in other cultures, there is much to be gleaned from this engaging novel. It’s a story of finding yourself, of finding your roots, and of finding where the two connect. A beautiful novel that you can enjoy just as an entertaining story or let it go deeper and maybe change your own story.
(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)
My Rating: 5 stars / loved it!
Johanna Rojas Vann is a professional writer whose work can be found online and within numerous publications. She is a second-generation Colombian American, with dual citizenship, and lives with her husband and children in Nashville, Tennessee. Her writing has appeared in Good Grit Magazine, Grit and Grace Life, and on her own blog, where you can read about her personal experience as “An Immigrant’s Daughter.” For more information, visit www.johannavann.com.
What about you? What makes you want to read An American Immigrant by Johanna Rojas Vann?