by Alejandra Campoverdi
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Pub Date 12 Sep 2023 | Archive Date 13 Oct 2023
To be a First and Only in America is a delicate balancing act of surviving where you come from while acting like you belong where you’re going.
Alejandra Campoverdi has been a child on welfare, a White House aide to President Obama, a gang member’s girlfriend, and a candidate for U.S. Congress. She’s ridden on Air Force One and in G-rides. She’s modeled on the pages of Maxim and had a double mastectomy. Living a life of contradictory extremes often comes with the territory when you’re a “First and Only.” It also comes at a price.
With candor and heart, Alejandra retraces her trajectory as a Mexican American woman raised by an immigrant single mother in Los Angeles, foregoing the tidy bullet points of her resume and shining a light on the spaces between them instead. What emerges is a moving testimony of personal struggle and triumph that shatters the one-dimensional glossy narrative we are often sold of what it takes to achieve the American Dream. Alejandra uses her own experiences to illustrate the emotional tolls First and Onlys often face that are widespread yet rarely acknowledged, providing a road to truth and healing in the process. It is a timely and revealing reflection, as social class continues to be a key determinant of career success.
Part memoir, part manifesto, FIRST GEN is a story of generational inheritance, aspiration, and belonging - a poignant journey to “reclaim the parts of ourselves we sacrificed in order to survive.”
“Intimate and unflinching, FIRST GEN reveals the very real human and emotional costs to living the American Dream. Alejandra Campoverdi shines a guiding light for all the ‘First and Onlys’ who, like her, struggle to overcome systemic barriers while detangling generational trauma. No discussion of America's supposed meritocracy is complete without consideration of this powerful book.”
—Qian Julie Wang, New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Country: A Memoir of an Undocumented Childhood
“FIRST GEN is a luminous achievement, one of the most moving debuts in memory… Campoverdi transforms the furies, hypocrisies and disappointments of the American dream into a survivor’s song of surpassing poignancy… this is literary love medicine, a book you will not soon forget.”
—Junot Diaz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of New York Times bestsellers The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and This is How You Lose Her
"A profoundly moving story of how one woman grew to appreciate that the painful challenges and self-doubt inherent in being the ‘First and Only,’ were also the source of her extraordinary superpowers. FIRST GEN will inspire countless readers to follow in the path she blazed."
—Valerie Jarrett, former Senior Adviser to President Barack Obama and New York Times bestselling author of Finding My Voice
"I wish this book existed when I was a first generation student navigating the alienating world of academia and the mostly white workplaces thereafter. Campoverdi’s writing is honest, healing, and empowering. FIRST GEN has made me feel seen and less alone."
-Javier Zamora, New York Times bestselling author of Solito
"Alejandra is the definitive voice for first generation young people who maintain their heritage while achieving their ambitions."
—Norma Kamali, Fashion Icon and Designer
“Alejandra Campoverdi, with piercing insight and unflinching candor, has written a book for our times––capturing the American dream as experienced by immigrants and their children who are remaking America. Her story may be one-of-a-kind, but the lessons she learned and imparts are universal.”
—Jose Antonio Vargas, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of national bestseller Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen
“FIRST GEN captures the emotional and physical agility required to break generational glass ceilings. Alejandra’s captivating memoir reminds us to be bold and brave on race relations be it in the boardroom or the Oval Office.”
—Mellody Hobson, Co-CEO and President of Ariel Investments
"This is a beautiful and powerful book. But, more than anything, it is a truthful one. Campoverdi's life is, in a way, a reflection of everybody's dream in America. She could have told us about all she has achieved—and then suggest that, if she did it, you can too. Instead, courageously, she tells us how difficult it was: that there is a price to be paid when you are the 'First and Only'.”
—Jorge Ramos, Emmy award-winning Senior Anchor of Univision News and bestselling author of The Latino Wave
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 16 members
I applaud Alejandra for her memoir - it's very well written and I loved learning about her life. You'll feel her emotions expressed with each chapter in a way that makes you want to know what happens next. She's brave and intelligent and I enjoyed her book. Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC. Five stars.
Thank you to netgalley and Grand Central Publishing for a digital copy in exchange for an honest review.
I am a sucker for a good memoir and I truly loved First Gen. Alejandra Campoverdi has an incredible way of weaving her life's story—I was instantly captivated and finished the book quite quickly. Her prose is straight forward but also so vivid.
I felt like the book was one long conversation, that I was sitting and having coffee with her as she shared advice through her stories, and I absolutely loved it. The structure made sense and worked and again, she has a way of picking out details of her life and extrapolating on them in the best way. I laughed, I cried, and I felt moved.
It's hard writing a review on someone's life but I just really loved this memoir.
Woah! As a First and Only, I had no idea that SO many of my experiences were almost universal amongst others! I felt so seen while also saddened that many others had similar lived experiences to mine. Thank you to this incredible author for doing so much of her own healing work to pave a path for others when we’re ready to do our own.
Wow. What a pleasant surprise! I truly enjoyed everything about this memoir. I've never heard of Alejandra Campoverdi before, but she seems like such a smart and accomplished young lady. She was the first in her family to go to college. I loved reading about her childhood. It was so refreshing and so relatable. She is a beautiful writer. She's had some life. Former model, graduate student, former white house staffer for President Obama, a candidate for the United States congress, and she underwent a double mastectomy. I related to the chapters where she talks about her crippling panic attacks she suffered as a child. Alejandra is not afraid to talk about uncomfortable moments from her chaotic upbringing. She has a deep love for her family. You can truly feel how much her family inspired her throughout her professional career. I really enjoy nonfiction and "First Gen" might be my favorite I read this year. Highly recommend!
Thank you, Netgalley and Grand Central for the digital ARC.