The Undocumented Americans

The Undocumented Americans
Image source: Google

Rating: 4.7/5

Author: Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

Publisher: One World Publishing

Publishing Date: 24 March, 2020

Language: English

Genre: Biography, Autobiography

ISBN-10: 0399592687

ISBN-13: 978-0399592683

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 208

Cost: Rs. 1,881 (Hardcover)


The book reveals the hidden lives of her fellow undocumented Americans in this deeply personal and ground-breaking portrait of a nation.


The Undocumented Americans is a book channelling that ambivalence into a series of dispatches from what we might call undocumented America: a country within a country, one that overlaps and undergirds the other.

In six tight chapters, Cornejo profiles Staten Island day laborers, second responders and delivery workers, healers and pharmacists, families poisoned by lead pipes and negligent politicians and the intimate fallout of the deportation machine.

Throughout, Cornejo Villavicencio weaves in her own story, reflecting on her parents’ sacrifices and her daily battles with trauma and mental illness. In the introduction Villavicencio writes, “This book is not a traditional non-fiction book. Names of persons have all been changed. Names of places have all been changed. Physical descriptions have all been changed. Or have they?”

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. 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 clean up after 9/11. In Miami, we are introduced to the 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.

The Undocumented Americans is as relative and harrowing as it is urgent for our times, and it will continue to linger. The stories of these undocumented heroes and heroines who risk their lives every day for a country that continues to deny them- is raw, screeching for recognition and bothered!

Milestones of the Book:

  • Finalist For The National Book Award

About the Author:

Karla Cornejo Villavicencio has written about immigration, music, beauty, and mental illness for The New York Times, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Glamour, Elle, Vogue, n+1, and The New Inquiry, among others. She became one of the first undocumented students to be accepted into Harvard University who graduated in 2011 and is now a Ph.D. candidate in American Studies at Yale University. Her parents brought her to the United States from Ecuador when she was five.

Presently, she lives in New Haven with her partner and their dog.