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With searing realism, debut author Restrepo describes Nora's anger, desperation and loss of faith... This memorable coming-of-age story will awaken readers to the overlooked struggles of immigrants.
--Kirkus - 2-15-2011
Thoroughly engaging and thought-provoking... an excellent choice for a book discussion group or a class conversation starter about immigration, prejudice, or gangs
--VOYA - 4 in quality and popularity
I used to be an auditor at a chain of ethnic grocery stores, Fiesta Mart, Inc, headquartered in Houston, Texas. I drove around the city visiting the stores on a daily basis. I came to know the clientele and their financial life cycle very well.
The immigrant customers would arrive with their weekly paychecks. After paying their utilities bills (overdue), a bag of bus tokens, and sending a few hundred dollars abroad (via Western Union), I would watch them walk into the grocery store and carefully pick out their groceries. When they went through the checkouts, they only had enough money left in their pockets to exchange for quarters (for the laundry mat). It was a vicious cycle of survival.
I found Nora at Fiesta Mart on Quitman Avenue. A girl standing on the side of the road staring at the grocery store. Her face haunted me. I wanted to know her story. How did she come to stand on that corner? Where was her family? Was she hungry?
Those questions became a story which turned into a novel. I modeled the neighborhood in my book after the neighborhood surrounding Moody Park on Quitman Avenue. The market Nora visits is a Fiesta store.
The town, Cedula, is fictional, but based on a town I visited in Mexico as a child. Cedula is just a piece of slang referring to the older Mexico voter registration card (a prime piece of ID in Mexico)
Chapter 11, Highway 59, was written after a terrible crime was committed in South Texas. A truck driver left 77 immigrants in a truck in the middle of a field. 18 people cooked to death. The Houston Chronicle did extraordinary coverage of this horrific incident. The images haunted me--especially the one of a foot hanging lifelessly out of the back of the truck. Chapter 11 is one of the original chapters of the book that hasn't changed.
Mr. Mann was created from a photo I saw advertising the North Texas Food Bank. I imagine him to have paranoid schizophrenia with periodic moments of lucidity. Many people who choose to live in the street are mentally ill ~ that doesn't make them less human.
I named the main character Nora because she is a Viking forging into the new world. The Greek origin of the name means "bright one". Aurora, her mother, means sun. The sun feeds and burns. Grandma Isabel was named after my own Colombian grandmother who passed away. Manuela, Jorge's wife, is named after my own mother.
Wonderful writing about arriving and thriving in the great USA. There are many touching and emotional moments in this novel. Read morePublished 12 months ago by D. Fisher
What could be more timely than ILLEGAL by Bettina Restrepo? Now with all of our border problems facing the country this story is one that fits the fabric of our time. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Richard B. Meyer
I felt part of Nora's world from beginning to end in this story. Restrepo pulls the reader in, weaving Nora's struggles with various personalized characters and settings. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Melanie Bondy
A 13 year old girl and her mother enter the U.S. illegally to find her father who went there to work and disappeared. Read morePublished on March 27, 2012 by Bonnie Ferrante
Illegal was a book I looked forward to reading because of the content - it's a unique realistic plot, and I had not ever read about someone wanting to move from Mexico to the... Read morePublished on August 6, 2011 by S Day
Why I read this: The author asked me too (which I love when authors do) and it is a debut novel, so I was happy to! Read morePublished on July 25, 2011 by Kristen M. Harvey
Illegal is the story of 15-year-old Nora who is from Mexico. Her dad left a few years ago to cross the border and work in Texas so he could send money back to Nora and her mom and... Read morePublished on July 11, 2011 by Jenna Goodall
Nora is such a wonderful, heartfelt character who flat out tells the story, and does so with real authentic emotion. Read morePublished on June 28, 2011 by Geoff Herbach
Every day on the news, we hear stories about illegal immigrants - those who choose to come to this country in search of a better life. Read morePublished on June 21, 2011 by MA