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Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America Hardcover – September 22, 2009

4.2 out of 5 stars 105 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

By the time Marisela, Yadira, Clara and Elissa—four girls of Mexican descent from the suburbs of Denver—entered their freshman year in high school, they were inseparable, but four years later, their fundamental difference threatened to divide them: Clara and Elissa were legal residents, but Marisela and Yadira had begun to suffer the repercussions of their parents' choice to illegally enter the U.S. Journalist Thorpe, married to Denver mayor John Hickenlooper, met them as the girls without legal status were finding their friends' liberties—big and small—to attend college, drive or even rent a movie unbearable. It was hard for Marisela and Yadira to see why they should labor over their homework if they were just going to end up working at McDonald's, Thorpe writes. Marisela slid into trouble with ease, but Yadira found the experience profoundly disorienting. With striking candor, Thorpe chronicles the girls' lives over four years, delineating the small but arresting differences that will separate them and shape their futures. She personalizes the ongoing debate over immigration and frames it so compassionately and sensibly that even the staunchest opponents of immigration liberalization might find themselves rethinking their positions. (Sept.)
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Review

"An excellent, in-depth study of immigration policies gone amok." -- Library Journal

"Just Like Us beautifully and powerfully reminds us of the individuals whose lives lie at the center of the chaos that is our approach to immigration. Helen Thorpe has taken policy and turned it into literature." -- Malcolm Gladwell

"With a gaze that is tender and ever alert, Helen Thorpe follows the lives of four young women -- Mexican and American -- so alike in their coming-of-age, but separated by the ironies of geography, the border that cuts through the heart." -- Richard Rodriguez, author of Brown: The Last Discovery of America

"This is a penetrating, fair, and refreshingly personal examination of the passions that fuel the immigration controversy in this country. Helen Thorpe measures the arguments on both sides of this national debate against the actual human costs imposed by the status quo. This book will find a central place in this debate." -- Lawrence Wright, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11

"With a perfect combination of narrative and reflection, empathy and analysis, Helen Thorpe tells both a particular story of four irresistibly engaging young women, and a universal story of the struggle between human aspiration and intractable obstacles. If this book gets widely read, our national conversation on immigration could make a shift from 'shrill and draining' to 'thoughtful and productive.' In this book, the force and power of journalism reach their peak." -- Patricia Nelson Limerick, author of The Legacy of Conquest and Something in the Soil
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (September 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416538933
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416538936
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (105 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #270,092 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Four Mexican girls, two legal immigrants born in the United States, and two illegals born in Mexico with legal siblings born in the US, grew up as best friends in junior high and high school. Just Like Us reads like a detective novel as Helen Thorpe shows how they cope with these similarities and differences--how they manage to get real or fake IDs, drivers' licenses, jobs, and college financial aid--all the while dealing with deported parents, boyfriends, and peer pressure. Finally, when an illegal immigrant teenager murders a Denver police officer, additional obstacles emerge to thwart their happy friendships as their differences become even more evident. As Thorpe, wife of Denver's mayor, relates, "All of us found ourselves in new territory, far from our point of origin. I didn't know what the rules were anymore."

Through reading this book, I learned to care about how these girls survived the conflicting laws in the US that seemed, for the most part, to prevent them from achieving the American dream. Thorpe relates to their dilemmas, having been an immigrant herself. She documents how their fiercest opponent, Tom Tancredo, himself offspring of immigrant grandparents, tries to gain political capital by blocking illegal immigrants from receiving decent educational programs, health care, and respect. At the same time, the Mexican immigrants--both legal and illegal--must pick fruit and vegetables, clean dirty buildings, and remodel other wealthy citizens' houses in order to survive.

As Thorpe weaves these girls' lives through the events swirling around them, I found myself staying up late to read one more chapter, or two, or three before going to sleep.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The author follows 4 girls from an urban Denver high school who are both Latina and good students. Two are legal immigrants and two are not. The girls follow the same path in trying to get to college but some are hampered by lack of eligibility of financial aid and cost of international tuition. How they cope in high school, college and beyond are the subject of this book. Even more interesting is how the families are affected around them. Imagine going back to Mexico and leaving your American born children here to fend for themselves or tell the older sibling to watch them. This book puts the story of illegal immigration onto human faces. Very interesting.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I especially wanted to read this book because I am an ESL teacher and I live in Denver. The author tells the story of four young Mexican American women who are good friends. It is their story but it is much more. It is the story of illegal immigrants and the many businesses who hire them, sometimes knowing that their documents are fake. It is the story of parent who are in the United States illegally and their children who are born here. It is the conflicting story of high school students who work hard and dream of going to college despite the obstacles some of them will face.

We meet them in their senior year. All are good students; two are legal and two are not. All four want to attend college, but the two without papers have problems figuring out how to pay for tuition without access to in-state tuition rates and financial aid. Thorpe describes the many dimensions of their lives, their academic experiences, their jobs, their families and their social lives.

Helen Thorpe also brings in the relevant political issues concerning immigration. She interviews Tom Tancredo, a former Colorado Congressman who has strong opinions about illegal immigration. Thorpe also describes various national votes and proposals and how they affect the girls and the possibilities for their futures in the United States.

Denver has many immigrants from many countries, but when the subject of immigrants comes up, many people think of Mexicans. And, even though Americans of Mexican descent share Colorado's history for generations, many people think of Mexicans as illegal.

Thorpe, as the Denver mayor's wife, is brought into the details of the shooting death of an off-duty policeman, working at a Mexican social club.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Helen Thorpe had a good idea: capture the saga of four Latina high schoolers, two of whom are legal citizens and two who are not. The cover with the doe- eyed depressed teen's photo should have warned me that this would have a thudding, "after-school special" quality, and it does. Great concept; good representatives are found in Marisela, Yadira, Clara, and Elissa. However, Thorpe's approach is somewhat helter-skelter: Is it political, personal profile, or third-person characterizations from afar? Unfortunately, it's a little bit of all three, and I felt as though the story is the equivalent of a carriage with its wheels stuck in the mud. Where, or how, are we going? Unlike oral historians such as Studs Terkel, we are not given the sense of each person; each young woman is always filtered through Thorpe's slightly priggish, English schoolmarm eyes. The section where she sat on the periphery during a graduation night party at a Mexican nightclub in Denver would be the prototype for my argument. Too many people, too many stories, too many agendas. The story would have been well told as a documentary with visual storytelling. I'm sorry to say I could never get excited about this book.
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