My American Life

My name is Mike J Quinn and I am the author of “The Dishwasher’s Son” a novel about the border between Mexico and the US, and how it runs right through an  American family.  I grew up in California, I’m a former restaurant manager, and a husband and father in a multi-national family. I think that makes me pretty qualified to write this book. The border divides my family right now.

The story of how this book came to be is just as incredible as the plot itself.

A few years ago my sons and I were eating dinner and listening to the news about heightened border security and how 9-11 changed international travel procedures, when one of my sons pipes up and says,   “hey, wouldn’t it be funny if an American couldn’t get back into the US?”  We laughed. Little did I know the border problem would be a very real part of my life.

Fast forward a few years and I marry a Mexican citizen who was here in the US illegally.  She has 3 children, two of whom were born in the US and are US citizens. We are very much a contemporary version of the Brady Bunch. We call ourselves, “The Mexi-Quinns.”  Soon after our marriage, I began inquiring about how to get citizenship for the members of my family who were not US citizens. I figured on some paperwork and fees.


I was told by several legal experts that the only way to keep our family together was for my wife and one of her daughters to travel back to Mexico to file the proper paperwork, but there’s a catch: because she was in the US more than 3 years without permission, she could be denied re-entry to the US for 10 years. (that’s how we stay together?) Not only that, but the only place she can go to file this paperwork is in one of the most violent cities in the world, “Cuidad Juarez.” Even if she just stayed there for the minimum six months that these experts said was a “best case scenario,” my wife and daughter could get killed, raped, or kidnapped.

There has got to be a better way.

I decided to write a book and bring this whole border-between-the-family story some exposure, so I made the story about a US kid whose dad left him and his mother for Mexico right after he was born and never came back. This makes him really angry toward anything that has to do with his Mexican father. One day this kid snaps and decides to go to Mexico to let his father and his “other” family know he exists and put a crimp in his father’s lifestyle.

Now things begin to get a little nuts.

After the first draft of this book I was reading the news online and I read about some American girl who was accidentally deported to Columbia. That idea was insane to me. This whole time I was writing a book and listening to my rational self telling me to keep the story believable–then this happened. It was perfect.

So now my book is about an American teenager and Arizona border guard volunteer who accidentally gets deported to Mexico and because he now has the identity of someone who was just deported, he is denied re-entry into the US and has to sneak across the border using the same techniques he has been learning to guard against as an Arizona Minuteman volunteer. (I love irony)

But this isn’t the crazy part of this story.

The crazy part is that the most outrageous situations that happen in this book are not the ones I made up; they are the ones I pulled from the news:

All of this stuff actually happened and is still happening today. The stuff I made up was pedestrian by comparison.

Now comes the really crazy part.

When I gave my book out to early readers to get some feedback before sending it out into the world, the response I got shocked me, “The book is great, but I just couldn’t get past the whole accidental deportation thing. It’s too unrealistic.”


You could have knocked me over with a feather.

So now I have to write a preface in the book explaining that this stuff actually happened, just so the people who don’t keep up with immigration and border news can suspend a realistic amount of disbelief in order to enjoy the (fiction) novel. Life just can’t get much more unrealistic than that.

It’s true what they say,

“life is stranger than fiction.”

And that’s saying a lot, if you’ve read the book.


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