11 Feb / Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas [in Library Journal]
“After twenty-five years of living illegally in a county that does not consider me one of its own, this book is the closest thing I have to freedom.” When Pulitzer Prize-winning Jose Antonio Vargas declared his undocumented status in 2011, Bill O’Reilly labeled him “the most famous illegal in America.” Twelve-year-old Vargas left Manila, in the Philippines, in 1993, unaware he would arrive without legal documentation to live with his maternal grandparents in California. Enabled by the kindness of strangers – teachers, mentors, colleagues – Vargas’s successes kept multiplying, until the cost of “lying, passing, and hiding” grew into the realization that “coming out is letting people in.”
For such a revealing, even dangerous memoir – “I don’t know where I will be when you read this book” – Vargas is the obvious narrator. He reads with a slight uplift between phrases, adding a sense of immediate intimacy, as he lays bare his life with the aim of practicing radical transparency. While insisting that the book is not about the politics of immigration, Vargas nevertheless adroitly and patiently educates readers, proving “how difficult, if not downright impossible, it is for undocumented people to ‘get legal.'”
Verdict: With immigration policy constantly in the news, Vargas’s journey provides an illuminating antidote to inaccurate sociopolitical rhetoric.