An unflinching memoir about navigating social mobility as a first gen Latina—offeringboth a riveting personal story and an examination of the unacknowledged emotional tolls of being a trailblazer.
Alejandra Campoverdi has been a child on welfare, a White House aide to President Obama, a Harvard graduate, 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 been featured in Maxim magazine 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 instead shining a light on the spaces between them, what emerges is a powerful testimony that shatters the one-dimensional glossy narrative we are often sold of what it takes to achieve the American Dream. In this timely and revealing reflection, Alejandra draws from her own experiences to name and frame the challenges First and Onlys often face, illuminating a road to truth, healing, and change in the process.
Part memoir, part manifesto, FIRST GEN is a story of generational inheritance, aspiration, and the true meaning of belonging—a gripping journey to “reclaim the parts of ourselves we sacrificed in order to survive.”
About the Author
Alejandra Campoverdi is a nationally recognized women’s health advocate, founder, producer, and former White House aide to President Obama. She produced and appeared in the celebrated PBS documentary Inheritance, founded the Latinos & BRCA awareness initiative in partnership with Penn Medicine’s Basser Center, and served as the first White House deputy director of Hispanic media. Alejandra is currently on the boards of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy, the Friends of the National Museum of the American Latino, and the California Community Foundation. She holds a master in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and graduated cum laude from the University of Southern California.
“FIRST GEN is a gift to all of us--the children of immigrants who have longed to read a story like ours in books. With vulnerability and transparency, Campoverdi gives us special access to so many setbacks, triumphs, and hard-won lessons as a First and Only. Every Latina hoping to end cycles of generational trauma must read this immediately.” —Erika L. Sanchez, New York Times bestselling author of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
“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
"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 fellow "First and Onlys" who 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
"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
"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
"Alejandra is the definitive voice for first generation young people who maintain their heritage while achieving their ambitions."—Norma Kamali, Fashion Icon and Designer
“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
"I felt like I found home when I read Alejandra Campoverdi's book. First Gen was written for the person who is looking for connection, understanding and inspiration. I laughed, I cried and I felt understood. Being a "First and Only" can often be isolating but reading this book affirmed that we are not alone on this journey. Let this book be a calling to all of us who have been the one and only in the room, at the table, in the class and at the podium to come together to form the community that we are often missing but so badly need."—Monica Ramirez, Activist and Founder of Justice for Migrant Women
“So much resonates in FIRST GEN—from the conflict of achieving the impossible as a ‘first’ in your family while constantly being pulled back into the drama of dysfunction, to the paradox of having magical breakthroughs on the worst days of your life. Every young person should read this book to understand how to fulfill their dreams while cleaning up generational baggage, to ultimately heal and finally find their true selves.”—Nely Galan, New York Times Bestselling Author of Self Made, Becoming Empowered, Self - Reliant and Rich in Every Way
“FIRST GEN lays out the challenges and contradictions of being a 'first and only’—may others walking a similar path find hope and inspiration in her story." —Cecilia Munoz, former Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and author of More Than Ready
“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
“This powerful and down-to-earth memoir is a vital glimpse into a set of experiences common to many Americans, and it's a celebration of the strength found in owning every part of a multifaceted identity.” —Shelf Awareness
"An invaluable resource for first-generation immigrant children striving for success in America."—Kirkus
“Campoverdi’s dedication and affection for young women in difficult circumstances is evident…she provides a rich harvest of encouragement and a solid list of resources.”