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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.

Karla Cornejo Villavicencio writes, “I’m a New York City kid, but although the first five years of my time in America were spent in Brooklyn, if we’re going to be real, I’m from Queens. Queens is the most diverse borough in the city. This might sound like a romanticized ghetto painting, but when I walk through my neighborhood, a Polish child with a toy gun will shoot at my head and say the same undecipherable word over and over; a Puerto Rican kid will rap along to a song on his phone and turn it up as loud as necessary to make out the lyrics, even rapping along to some N-words; some Egyptian teenagers will refuse to move out of my way as I’m simply trying to cross the street; and some Mexican guys will invite me to join a pyramid scheme. But none of us will try to take any rights away from each other. We don’t have potlucks, but we live in peace. We go to the same street fairs.”

The Undocumented Americans Reviews

“Profoundly intimate . . . highly personal and deeply empathetic . . . Readers will be deeply moved by this incandescent account.”Publishers Weekly

“Memorable . . . compelling . . . heartwrenching . . . The Undocumented Immigrants is a welcome addition to the literature on immigration told by an author who understands the issue like few others.”Kirkus Reviews

The Undocumented Immigrantsis a valuable and authentic inquiry is powerfully embellished with magical imaginings, as when she envisions a man drowning during Hurricane Sandy’s last moments. [Karla] Cornejo Villavicencio’s unfiltered and vulnerable voice incorporates both explosive profanity and elegiac incantations of despair, as, for example, when she internalizes the hatred toward brown people manifest in the poisoning of Flint, Michigan’s water supply. She gives of herself unstintingly as she speaks with undocumented day laborers, older people working long past retirement age, and a housekeeper who relies on the botanica and voodoo for health care. Cornejo Villavicencio’s challenging and moving testimonio belongs in all collections.”Booklist (starred review)

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191 pages


One World


March 24, 2020

available now

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