My Rating: 10/10
By the age of nine, I will have lived in more than a dozen countries, on five continents, under six assumed identities. I’ll know how a document is forged, how to withstand an interrogation, and most important, how to disappear . . .
Wild, heart-wrenching, and unexpectedly funny, Nowhere Girl is an inspiring coming-of-age memoir about running for freedom against the odds.
To the young Cheryl Diamond, life felt like one big adventure, whether she was hurtling down the Himalayas in a rickety car or mingling with underworld fixers. Her family appeared to be an unbreakable gang of five. One day they were in Australia, the next South Africa, the pattern repeating as they crossed continents, changed identities, and erased their pasts. What Diamond didn’t yet know was that she was born into a family of outlaws fleeing from the highest international law enforcement agencies, a family with secrets that would eventually catch up to all of them.
By the time she was in her teens, Diamond had lived dozens of lives and lies, but as she grew, love and trust turned to fear and violence, and her family—the only people she had in the world—began to unravel. She started to realize that her life itself might be a big con, and the people she loved, the most dangerous of all. With no way out and her identity burned so often that she had no proof she even existed, all that was left was a girl from nowhere.
Surviving would require her to escape, and to do so Diamond would have to unlearn all the rules she grew up with. Like The Glass Castle meets Catch Me If You Can, Nowhere Girl is an impossible-to-believe true story of self-discovery and triumph.
It’s blog tour day for Nowhere Girl by Cheryl Diamond! Thank you to Algonquin for having me and sending me copies of this wonderful memoir. I enjoyed this book from the first page to the last. Memoirs can be a tricky thing to rate, because it can feel like you’re putting a rating on someone’s personal experiences. I find that most memoirs that I pick up, I really enjoy. There’s nothing quite like looking into another person’s life, especially when their life has been quite out of the ordinary.
There’s a few things that make a memoir great to me and a huge one is vivid storytelling. I like when you get a sense of that personal inner voice and we absolutely get that with Nowhere Girl. We follow Cheryl into adulthood from childhood. We watch her evolution from a mature, overachieving, loyal child to a grown woman reeling from the trauma she didn’t realize she was experiencing as kid. There’s a lot of heavy stuff in the book and she tells it in a way that keeps us wanting to read more. Trigger warnings for molestation by a family member, familial abuse, intense manipulation and gas-lighting. The writing is well done; intelligent and expertly crafted. There was never a boring passage or moment that I glazed over.
Cheryl lives a life by many names but it’s truly empowering to see her journey from young Harbhajan to the woman she is today. She lives with a father whose motives are all selfish but as a child, he’s her hero. She sees a man on the run from Interpol at no fault of his own, though as she gets older, the layers are pulled back. Like most children, she realizes her parents aren’t perfect, that they’re actually very flawed people. Though her situation is extreme, many can relate to the moment that you shed the childlike mentality of blissful ignorance and realize that life isn’t as stable and idyllic as you once thought. She comes to a moment of reckoning; her father stole years of stability, stole from her a place to call home. She literally has no legal home country, as her parents used fake names on her birth certificate and have spent years running around the world on forged passports. Does she go to court to try to fight for a place in the world? Is this a betrayal to her father? Will she be exiled to a country where she doesn’t know a soul, doesn’t know the language? Will she ever have a life to call her own?
Nowhere Girl is one of those books that would make an excellent movie because it’s almost unbelievable that someone went through this. It’s truly awe-inspiring that Cheryl is able to write and tell us of all these hardships that she faced with her family. She’s someone who has lived through the unthinkable and somehow keeps rising, keeps finding new ways to succeed. This is a breathtaking, honest, witty memoir and I’m glad that I had the opportunity to read it.