Summer Reading: Topics in Immigration | Autobiographies

Three stories: an American citizen with undocumented parents, a teenager secretly smuggled to the USA with no path to citizenship, and an undocumented student who lived in fear for 14 years before finally becoming “legal.” These are my picks for your summer reading list.

In The Country We Love – My Family Divided

Imagine, coming home from school to find your parents gone. You always knew the day could come–that your parents could be taken by ICE back to Colombia. But they hadn’t caused any trouble. They worked hard and gave thousands of dollars to an attorney who was supposed to fix their status. Hiding under your bed, you wondered if they would come for you next

This is the real story of Diane Guerrero, star of the Netflix series Orange is the New Black, and how she survived. The American-born daughter of parents who immigrated legally, she became homeless when her parents let their status slip and were arrested by ICE and deported back to Colombia. All this, at the age of 14.

Since publishing her 272 page book in 2016, Guerrero partnered Erica Moroz to publish a version of her autobiography for younger readers. Published in 2018, the 256 page version is perfect for pre-teen readers.

Dear America, Note of an Undocumented Citizen

At the age of 15, Jose Antonio Vargas had the sames desires as other kids his age. The most pressing, however, was to apply for his driving permit and no longer have to rely on his family to drive him from place to place.

He had been living with his grandparents on the West Coast since the age of 12. His mother was still living in the Philippines. He had no contact with his Filipino father. A desire for independence compelled him to go, unaccompanied, to the BMV and apply for his permit. It was there that he was informed that his papers were forged. He was living in the USA illegally.

Hear from Jose here.

Like Guerrero, Vargas has also written a version of his book for younger readers. Published in 2019, this book is 144 pages and geared toward pre-teen readers. The original, published the year before, is 256 pages.

Vargas has created the non-profit, Define American. How do you define American? Learn more below.

My (Underground) American Dream

While her parents championed their international business ventures between the USA and Mexico, Julissa attended school and studied English with a private tutor. Although she was unable to obtain a Green Card, the United States felt like home. But without documentation, her education would meet a dead end when she graduated. Despite her impressive grades, she needed documentation to attend college.

Miraculously, in 2001, the year Julissa graduated, Texas passed House Bill 1403 and allowed undocumented immigrants to attend college.

Julissa has also written a version of her book for younger readers. Someone Like Me was published in 2018 with 240 pages, two years after My (Underground) American Dream was published with 304 pages.

Julissa has also shared why she decided to “come out” of the shadows on Define America and you can watch her video here.

If you’ve read any of these books or have suggestions about books that I should read, please drop a comment below! Happy reading!


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