Julissa Arce's Mexican parents brought her legally to the U.S. when she was 11; when she was 14 her visa expired and she began living with the constanJulissa Arce's Mexican parents brought her legally to the U.S. when she was 11; when she was 14 her visa expired and she began living with the constant pressure of being an undocumented immigrant in a country she'd mostly grown up in and felt was her home. Arce powerfully makes the case for why undocumented immigrants deserve a path to citizenship -- as with the oft-stalled DREAM act. Arce herself only eventually gained legal status because she was able to marry someone who had money and had money herself. She's very upfront about how this path is open to very few -- and not nearly enough -- people.
The story of how Arce made her money is where the book loses me a bit. In my mind:
Undocumented immigrants = lots of sympathy, deserve better treatment Wall Street culture and Goldman Sachs = yuck, get away from me
It totally makes sense that Arce, who ran a funnel cake stand to pay her way through college, would want to grow up and make bank. But the lesson she takes from a story about a young "chubby" analyst being hazed by being made to run all over a huge trading floor looking for something that doesn't exist is "know everything so people can't put anything past you." My takeaway is: these people are gross.
The last quarter of the book also turns heavily Christian in a way that's just...very alienating to me. I know that this will not be the case for a lot of people. In fact, I hope people who think Wall Street is awesome and/or are strong Christian believers, but are less convinced about the need to reform our immigration policies to help more people in need and let them live the fabled American Dream -- I hope they read this memoir. I hope it can influence them in a positive way. That's the ideal audience for this book.
However, if you already agree with Arce about the types of positive changes that need to be made to immigration law, you don't especially need to read her story; similar tales are told better elsewhere....more
This is a really nicely written coming-of-age story, but oh man: I hate, hate, hate the art style. I realize this is completely a matter of personal tThis is a really nicely written coming-of-age story, but oh man: I hate, hate, hate the art style. I realize this is completely a matter of personal taste, but it looks to me like something you would find a 12-year-old posting on DeviantArt. To me it was distracting in its badness.
The same text, illustrated by a different artist, would have been much more powerful and affecting for me....more
Wrenchingly honest in a way I only wish I could be. I found this collection extremely relatable (her anorexia was exactly like my anorexia! we feel guWrenchingly honest in a way I only wish I could be. I found this collection extremely relatable (her anorexia was exactly like my anorexia! we feel guilt and shame about so many of the same things!) and that's always an incredibly comforting thing to discover: you are not alone. ...more
Harper Lee has just died; fifty-six years ago she published To Kill a Mockingbird, the story of heroic lawyer Atticus Finch and his attempt to defendHarper Lee has just died; fifty-six years ago she published To Kill a Mockingbird, the story of heroic lawyer Atticus Finch and his attempt to defend a black man, Tom Robinson, from a false charge of rape made by a white woman. What a lot of people neglect to focus on, as Bryan Stevenson points out in this painful, moving, necessary memoir, is that Atticus' defense fails. Tom Robinson is convicted, then killed. The irony is not lost on Stevenson as he goes to Monroe County, Alabama, the setting of Lee's novel and a community that has made an industry out of celebrating her work, to defend another falsely convicted black man -- the conviction the result of an obvious set-up by local law enforcement that has nevertheless landed his innocent client on death row. This case serves as the centerpiece of Just Mercy, but Stevenson details many more from his thirty-year career, all of them heartbreaking and infuriating in different ways. The book is a compelling page-turner, not in spite of but because of the outrageous civil rights abuses Stevenson exposes: racism, jury tampering, cruel and unusual treatment of the mentally ill, children, the poor. You keep reading hoping for a happy ending, the miraculous appearance of justice, but Lee couldn't conceive of a happy ending to her novel fifty-six years ago, and unfortunately, in Stevenson's depiction of reality more than half a century later, not much -- and certainly nowhere near enough -- has changed.
Just Mercy is an essential book, because it's a reminder that this type of injustice is not a thing of the past, a problem we've "solved." It's current, it's ongoing, and people like Stevenson are still actively fighting it every day. Toward the end of the book, Stevenson describes a meeting with legends of the Civil Rights Movement, Rosa Parks and Johnnie Carr. "Ooooh, honey," said Parks, after hearing about his work, "that's going to make you tired, tired, tired." Then Carr leaned forward and said, "That's why you've got to be brave, brave, brave."
If only we could all be even a fraction as courageous. Let's start by not forgetting. Read this book and stay aware, stay aware, stay aware....more