There are many interesting threads in Castro’s book, but little in the way of introspection. In the first half, especially, which covers his childhood, many anecdotes seem presented for dramatic effect, and their purpose in the larger story never becomes clear ... How he resolves his vision of education as an equalizer with barriers like structural racism remains unclear ... raises more questions than answers. Does he embrace a minority and immigrant identity, or hope to “transcend” it in favor of something more vaguely universal? Does a presidential story need to start in America to be valid? And most important, has he truly woken up from the American dream of meritocracy?
With less to hold readers’ interest, one begins to pay more attention to Castro’s habit of writing about his life as though it’s played out in a series of neat lessons. Every couple of pages, he stops the action to spell out what he learned from whatever action he’s just described. There’s a moral to just about every story ... despite its shortcomings, An Unlikely Journey is worth reading for what it says about Castro’s and his brother’s early development and, more importantly for local readers, San Antonio’s transition to a more politically open and diverse city ... Will many readers outside of Texas take notice? We’ll see in a couple of weeks, but my guess is that if Castro is the Democrats’ presidential nominee in 2020, it won’t be on the strength of An Unlikely Journey.
Eloquent in its simplicity, Castro’s book offers a moving account of immigrant success that seeks to encourage all Americans to continue the fight against government injustice toward immigrants ... A timely, inspiring memoir.