BOOK REVIEWS: Liza Monroy’s Memoir On Marriage, Her Gay Best Friend, and Duping The Government

by Michelle Beiter

In her memoir The Marriage Act: The Risk I Took To Keep My Best Friend In America And What It Taught Us About Love, Liza Monroy challenges the definition of marriage and true companionship. She chronicles the experiences she had during her first marriage, a green card union intended to save her gay best friend from deportation and a life of hiding his sexuality in his home country, exploring how those experiences shaped her interpretation of what it truly means to be a working part of a married couple. The odds are stacked against the pair, including America’s then DOMA policy, the itty-bitty fact that the Monroy’s mother is an established Immigration and Naturalization Service officer, not to mention that the young Liza had a bit of a problem keeping the terms of her marriage completely secret as she and her partner had initially agreed.

As she takes us through her life as a married woman and navigates the fragmented moments of her past that shaped her into the young woman who was willing to marry her best friend to keep him safe, Monroy implicitly asks the reader to consider the following: What exactly makes up a marriage? What are the “Terms Of Agreement,” if any? If each marriage is different and completely indefinable by anyone except for the people in that relationship, as Monroy postulates, how could anyone assume responsibility for determining the validity of anyone else’s marriage but their own?

At times her writing style is akin to that of a diary entry that was slaved over after an unsuccessful appointment with a shrink: Monroy makes an unfortunate and frustrating habit of analyzing her problems to death in her narrative without invoking any sort of solution, and has a tendency to reiterate the “conclusions” she makes about her behavior across multiple chapters, without actively putting those conclusions to work in an effort to fix those problems. However, her inability to see the clear cut solutions to her own problems reminds the reader that she was just only 21 at the time of her marriage, which results in a memoir that’s quite visceral and honest, even if you want thump the young Monroy on the head and yelp “WHY DID YOU DO THAT??” at times.  What Monroy does accomplish is the most important facet of this work as a whole: by chronicling all of her relationships with men (and her mother) during this particular part of her life, she poignantly states her case for immigration reform with a larger focus on marriage equality as a whole.

The Marriage Act is available for purchase at book selllers and at

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