The Undocumented Americans

The Undocumented Americans

One of the first undocumented immigrants to graduate from Harvard reveals the hidden lives of her fellow undocumented Americans in this deeply personal and groundbreaking portrait of a nation.

Writer Karla Cornejo Villavicencio was on DACA when she decided to write about being undocumented for the first time using her own name. It was right after the election of 2016, the day she realized the story she'd tried to steer clear of was the only one she wanted to tell. So she wrote her immigration lawyer's phone number on her hand in Sharpie and embarked on a trip across the country to tell the stories of her fellow undocumented immigrants--and to find the hidden key to her own.

Looking beyond the flashpoints of the border or the activism of the DREAMers, Cornejo Villavicencio explores the lives of the undocumented--and the mysteries of her own life. She finds the nation of singular, effervescent characters often reduced in the media to political pawns or nameless laborers. The stories she tells are not deferential or naively inspirational but show the love, magic, heartbreak, insanity, and vulgarity that infuse the day-to-day lives of her subjects.

In New York, we meet the undocumented workers who were recruited into the federally funded Ground Zero cleanup after 9/11. In Miami, we enter the ubiquitous botanicas, which offer medicinal herbs and potions to those whose status blocks them from any other healthcare options. In Flint, Michigan, we learn of demands for state ID in order to receive life-saving clean water. In Connecticut, Cornejo Villavicencio, childless by choice, finds family in two teenage girls whose father is in sanctuary. And through it all we see the author grappling with the biggest questions of love, duty, family, and survival.

In her incandescent, relentlessly probing voice, Cornejo Villavicencio combines sensitive reporting and powerful personal narratives to bring to light remarkable stories of resilience, madness, and death. Through these stories we come to understand what it truly means to be a stray. An expendable. A hero. An American.

Title:The Undocumented Americans
ISBN:9780399592683
Format Type:

    The Undocumented Americans Reviews

  • Thomas

    Such an honest and important book that centers the lives of undocumented immigrants in the United States. Karla Cornejo Villavicencio names early on in The Undocumented Americans how we often tend to ...

  • Paris (parisperusing)

    In two years, America took three of my beloveds: all grandmothers. I remember the aisles pouring in with mourners at the first funeral, how I could not look my cousins in their bloodshot eyes, could n...

  • Karen (idleutopia_reads)

    Language can often fail us and can be manipulated to present a one-dimensional view of our life and those in our community. It then becomes jarring to see these depictions and realize that they don’...

  • Dennis

    I'll be honest and tell you that I read American Dirt earlier this year and fell victim to the book's sensationalized storyline. Sometimes as a white man, I don't understand my privilege as much as I ...

  • Jessica

    Thank you to the publisher for the free review copy“I am not a journalist. Journalists are not allowed to get involved the way I have gotten involved. Journalists, to the best of my knowledge, do no...

  • Never Without a Book

    This book is everything!!!! A must read! ...

  • Lupita Reads

    With the utmost care and brilliance, Karla Cornejo Villavicencio takes the power of storytelling to unveil the struggles and perseverance of Undocumented Americans throughout major crisis across the n...

  • Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)

    The author was one of the first undocumented immigrants to graduate from Harvard and in this book she utilizes creative nonfiction to tell the stories of undocumented Americans across the country. The...

  • Will

    In her introduction to The Undocumented Americans Karla Cornejo Villavicencio writes:On the night of the 2016 presidential election, I spent a long time deciding what to wear…I wore a burgundy velve...

  • Isabella Gonzlez

    The author qualifies many times that she is not a journalist because she gets involved with the subjects in her stories. She doesn't pretend to be objective because if one of the subjects needs a used...