Monday, October 26, 2020
The Undocumented Americans (2020) chronicles the own immigration story of Cornejo Villavicencio. It also profiles undocumented immigrants across the United States: the trauma of those recruited to clean up ground zero; the loneliness of day laborers in Staten Island; the challenges of those facing the water crisis in Flint, Mich.; and the role of herbalists and healers in Miami. One of her goals in selecting these profiles, she said in an interview with the New York Times, is "to push back against the one-dimensional caricatures she saw of Latinx and undocumented people." She also wanted to shift focus from Dreamers like her to older immigrants, who she feels are often erased or reduced to their job descriptions.
The origin of the book was an anonymous essay Villavicencio wrote as a college student at Harvard University for the Daily Beast. The New York Times article contains excerpts of an interview with the author and a link to an episode on This American Life.
The book is a finalist for the National Book Award in nonfiction — the first time an undocumented person has been up for the prize. It is one of several notable books by undocumented immigrants including Jose Antonio Vargas, Julissa Arce, Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, Dan-el Padilla Peralta and Javier Zamora.