When people read headlines about undocumented students or the Dream Act, they generally have a vague concept of what the ideas mean and how they affect the people involved. It’s easy to generalize with a 24-hour news cycle. It is even easier to think you understand some of the complex and challenging reasons people come to the U.S. and remain undocumented. Fortunately, authors and activists with unique voices have helped deepen our understanding with their stories about what the “American Dream” – and the struggle to obtain it – means for them.
Julissa Arce is one of those authors. Arce has adapted her memoir, “My (Undocumented) American Dream,” for a younger audience in order to inspire younger readers who may not identify with the protagonists in the books they read. Her new book is called “Someone Like Me.”
Arce says she doesn’t remember reading “a single book in middle school where the protagonist was someone like me: a Latina immigrant.” She hopes that by reading her story, young readers will be inspired to love books and to write their own stories.
Arce was born in Taxco, Mexico, where she was often left to the care of relatives while her parents worked across the border in the U.S. When her family lost their income, Arce was brought to the U.S. to live with her family as an undocumented student. The struggle to learn and grow as a young person is challenging enough without the pressure and anxiety of being undocumented, and Arce was also tasked with being her family’s translator during everyday life in the U.S., as well as during some complicated medical situations involving her family.
While her status as an undocumented child is a theme in her memoir, “Someone Like Me” is not just a story of immigration. It is a story about the importance of pursuing your dreams despite the circumstances you face. It is a story that humanizes and shines a light on undocumented people in the U.S. for who they are: people searching for ways to contribute to and realize the American Dream.
“The book is about love for family and the sacrifices we must make to achieve our dreams,” Arce says. “I believe young people will see themselves in my experiences because we’ve all had a dream we’ve worked hard to achieve.”