I read these words from Baldwin like they were some sort of dare: "You have to decide who you are, and force the world to deal with you, not its idea of you."
Separation not only divides families; separation buries emotion, buries it so far down you can't touch it.
The difference, however, is that when white people move, then and now, it's seen as courageous and necessary, celebrated in history books. Yet when people of color move, legally or illegally, the migration itself is subjected to question of legality. Is it a crime? Will they assimilate? When will they stop?
Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen Paperback – September 3, 2019
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“The moments when Vargas describes how profoundly alienated he feels from his own family ate the most candid and crushing parts of the book....Dear America is a potent rejoinder to those who tell Vargas he’s supposed to ‘get in line’ for citizenship, as if there were a line instead og a confounding jumble of vague statues and executive orders.” (New York Times)
“In Dear America, we get to know a young Vargas who was constantly told to stay in the shadows but whose tenacity and devotion had other plans for him.” (Los Angeles Magazine)
“Vargas writes with a newspaper reporter’s spare, forceful prose, but he’s searching and highly introspective.” (Mother Jones)
“[Dear America] is the voice of one man balancing between the poles of his identity. No matter one’s status, that’s something everyone can relate to.” (Providence Journal)
“[A] stirring, soulful, and ultimately damning autobiography.” (AV Club)
“A thought-provoking, moving, and highly personal memoir of Vargas’s struggle to belong. Recommended for all readers interested in immigration issues and American identity.” (Library Journal)
“Excruciatingly timely. . . .Vargas’ frank and fearless voice thoughtfully and intentionally challenges readers to confront the call for action at the heart of this book; the urgent need for “a new language around migration and the meaning of citizenship.” (Booklist (starred review))
“A clarion call for humanity in a time of unprecedented focus on the 11 million people living in America without a clear path to citizenship. Vargas writes passionately about the undeniable intersection between race, class, and immigration and traces the bitter history of American immigratin policy.” (BookPage )
“Jose Antonio Vargas’s eloquent and emotional book bears witness to a basic truth: we should not be defined by our legal status, but by who we are...His voice is an important voice that needs to be heard by all Americans, whether they are Americans by birth or by choice.” (Sheryl Sandberg, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Option B and Lean In)
“This riveting, courageous memoir ought to be mandatory reading for every American...The pressing question from these pages isn’t whether Jose deserves to be a citizen but whether we, as a nation, deserve the bravery and generosity of spirit that he offers us with an open heart and mind.” (Michelle Alexander, New York Times bestselling author of The New Jim Crow)
“Dear America is a daring and honest book that perhaps so many undocumented citizens wish they could write, about what is gained and lost by living in the “shadows”...You may not know where he will be when you read this book, but his story will stay with you always.” (Edwidge Danticat, award-winning author of Brother, I’m Dying)
“[Dear America] couldn’t be more timely and more necessary...a deeply personal and multilayered story told so gently and with such affection and humor.” (Dave Eggers, New York Times bestselling author of What Is the What and The Monk of Mokha)
“This important book could not be more timely- Jose Antonio Vargas has put a human face on one of the most defining and polarizing issues of our time: immigration. Dear America is not a book about politics or policy; it is written from the very depths of the human heart.” (Gilbert King, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Devil in the Grove and Beneath a Ruthless Sun)
“Read it, feel it at a gut level, and go beyond the noise of hate politics...This is a book about America. l cried reading this book, realizing more fully what my parents endured.” (Amy Tan, New York Times bestselling author of The Joy Luck Club and Where the Past Begins)
“One of the most important immigration rights activists of our time, Vargas has, in this brief book, brilliantly elucidated one of our major political issues.” (Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University)
“Jose Antonio Vargas’s powerful memoir is among many things a celebration of the millions of Americans who make immigrants like us feel at home in their country, regardless of our legal status, regardless of how much daily hostility we face. May this book cause their ranks to swell.” (Imbolo Mbue, New York Times bestselling author of Behold the Dreamers)
From the Back Cover
My name is Jose Antonio Vargas. I was born in the Philippines. When I was twelve, my mother sent me to the United States to live with her parents. While applying for a driver’s permit, I found out my papers were fake. More than two decades later, I am still here illegally, with no clear path to American citizenship. To some people, I am the “most famous illegal” in America. In my mind, I am only one of an estimated 11 million human beings whose uncertain fate is under threat in a country I call my home.
This is not a book about the politics of immigration. This book—at its core—is not about immigration at all. This book is about homelessness, not in a traditional sense, but about the unsettled, unmoored psychological state in which undocumented immigrants like me find ourselves. This book is about lying and being forced to lie to get by; about passing as an American and as a contributing citizen; about families, keeping them together, and having to make new ones when you can’t. This book is about what it means to not have a home.
- Publisher : Dey Street Books; Reprint edition (September 3, 2019)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 256 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0062851349
- ISBN-13 : 978-0062851345
- Item Weight : 7.2 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.13 x 0.64 x 7.63 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #46,719 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Vargas was brought here illegally, unbeknownst to him, when he was just a boy. His experience of lying, passing and hiding constitutes a form of pain that is almost unfathomable to those of us fortunate enough to be American citizens by birth. Vargas is an expert narrator and conveyor of the agony of this peculiar, but common, type of “homelessness”.
After building a career as a successful journalist, Vargas decided to come out as an undocumented immigrant by publishing a full account in the New York Times. Rendered not hirable by virtue of the article, Vargas has now devoted himself to a life of activism on behalf of undocumented Americans.
While all readers will be riveted by his personal account, Vargas’s overarching goals are more controversial. Certainly, no one can deny that a more informed debate around undocumented Americans is necessary. But Vargas goes much farther than that. He aims to show American citizens that undocumented Americans are your neighbor, your family member, your colleague at work just as gay individuals who came out changed perceptions of the homosexual community. He believes that there is a dominant narrative written by white, straight males that needs to be challenged by traditionally marginalized groups. He even suggests that American laws are just expressions of this narrative.
Because America at one time engaged in imperial conquests and political shenanigans in Central and South America he declares that these peoples have a right to immigrate to the United States.
A review isn’t the place to argue these claims but, to be honest, I am skeptical of many of them. Instead of arguing these claims I would rather alert the potential reader that this book has deeper aims than just a gripping personal narrative.
But, obviously written with good will, I strongly recommend this book to all Americans as shining a light on a situation that is a national shame. Agree with Vargas’s overall aims or not, we need people of good will to discuss how we can get out of what is euphemistically called a broken system. It is causing too much suffering on our fellow human beings to conclude otherwise.