Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen

Rate this book
Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, called “the most famous undocumented immigrant in America,” tackles one of the defining issues of our time in this explosive and deeply personal call to arms.

“This is not a book about the politics of immigration. This book––at its core––is not about immigration at all. This book is about homelessness, not in a traditional sense, but in the unsettled, unmoored psychological state that undocumented immigrants like myself find ourselves in. This book is about lying and being forced to lie to get by; about passing as an American and as a contributing citizen; about families, keeping them together, and having to make new ones when you can’t. This book is about constantly hiding from the government and, in the process, hiding from ourselves. This book is about what it means to not have a home.

After 25 years of living illegally in a country that does not consider me one of its own, this book is the closest thing I have to freedom.”

—Jose Antonio Vargas, from Dear America

256 pages, ebook

First published September 18, 2018

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Jose Antonio Vargas

5 books129 followers
Jose Antonio Vargas is a journalist, filmmaker, and immigration rights activist. Born in the Philippines and raised in the United States from the age of twelve, he was part of The Washington Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting in 2008 for coverage of the Virginia Tech shooting online and in print. Vargas has also worked for the San Francisco Chronicle, the Philadelphia Daily News, and The Huffington Post. He wrote, produced, and directed the autobiographical 2013 film Documented, which CNN Films broadcast in June 2014.

In a June 2011 essay in The New York Times Magazine, Vargas revealed his status as an undocumented immigrant in an effort to promote dialogue about the immigration system in the U.S. and to advocate for the DREAM Act, which would provide children in similar circumstances with a path to citizenship. A year later, a day after the publication of his Time cover story about his continued uncertainty regarding his immigration status, the Obama administration announced it was halting the deportation of undocumented immigrants age 30 and under, who would be eligible for the DREAM Act. Vargas, who had just turned 31, did not qualify.

Vargas is the founder of Define American, a nonprofit organization intended to open up dialogue about the criteria people use to determine who is an American. He has said: "I am an American. I just don't have the right papers."

In September 2018 his memoir, Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen, was published by Dey Street.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
5,062 (45%)
4 stars
4,547 (41%)
3 stars
1,225 (11%)
2 stars
172 (1%)
1 star
46 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,528 reviews
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,517 reviews8,975 followers
May 9, 2019
A solid memoir by Jose Antonio Vargas, a prominent journalist and undocumented Filipino immigrant. The first part of this book serves as its most powerful, when Vargas shares what it felt like as a child to learn about his status and question his entire sense of belonging and security. He communicates the psychological homelessness of living as an undocumented immigrant so well, the confusion and fear and distrust. I also appreciate how he wrote about encountering the ignorance of white people and others toward immigration, both within journalism and outside of it. One quote I loved a lot:

"Migration is the most natural thing people do, the root of how civilizations, nation-states, and countries were established. The difference, however, is that when white people move, then and now, it's seen as courageous and necessary, celebrated in history books. Yet when people of color move, legally or illegally, the migration itself is subjected to question of legality. Is it a crime? Will they assimilate? When will they stop? There are an estimated 258 million migrants around the world, and many of us are migrating to countries that previously colonized and imperialized us. We have a human right to move, and governments should serve that right, not limit it. The unprecedented movement of people - what some call a 'global migration crisis' - is, in reality, a natural progression of history. Yes, we are here because we believe in the promise of the American Dream - the search for a better life, the challenge of dreaming big. But we are also here because you were there - the cost of American imperialism and globalization, the impact of economic policies and political decisions."

I felt like Vargas put up emotional barriers in this memoir though. I get that he has the right to disclose however much he wants to in his book. However, especially in the later sections, I wanted more introspection about his emotions and what contributed to them. For example, in a brief chapter he reveals his difficulty with intimacy, yet he does not really interrogate how he feels about that trouble with intimacy, if he will take steps to address that difficulty with intimacy (e.g., therapy), etc. Maybe I wanted this because of my background as a therapist and because I'm still processing a huge crush I had/have on a really accomplished emotionally unavailable queer son of immigrants writer, idk lol. Also, when Vargas reflects on the criticism he has received from people on the left, I appreciated how he shared his feelings of hurt, yet I thought he maybe could have more to explicitly own up to the privileges he possessed. I did wonder, throughout reading this memoir, how much Vargas himself may have internalized the model minority myth and the burdensome expectations of American meritocracy.

Overall, a good read I would recommend to those who want to learn more about immigration, a huge issue in the United States, from a more personal perspective. A well-written and courageous memoir.
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,650 followers
September 21, 2018
This book is at its best when it is an honest memoir, which is about 2/3rds of the book. He talks about the tensions in his Phillipino family between the "legal" and the "illegal" and then the shock when he finds out his greencard is fake. I wish people could understand when they talk about "illegals" that these are humans just like them.

The later portion of the book was still good, but I wished he would stay with his own story as opposed to trying to respond to all his critics. Apparently, a lot of people from both sides of the immigration issue have criticized him for his advocacy. But let haters hate and tell your story. You don't need to tell everyone else's story. I, for one, will read anyone's story if it's honest.
Profile Image for Karyl.
1,760 reviews122 followers
October 31, 2018
I wanted to keep repeating: there is no line.

I wanted to scream over and over again: THERE IS NO LINE! THERE IS NO LINE! THERE IS NO LINE! (p. 154)

I sit here writing this the day after President Trump stated he wants to get rid of birthright citizenship, in which babies born on US soil are then considered citizens, regardless of the status of their parents. I sit here writing there as a caravan of migrants from central America are making their way through Mexico, headed to the US border, and decried by conservative talking heads as "invaders" and a "horde." I have friends who have immigrated to the US from other countries that insist that since they did it legally, there is no reason everyone else cannot do so as well.

What these folks don't understand is that it's not that easy. NAFTA ruined Mexico's economy, and undocumented workers can make more money in the US to support their families than they can in Mexico. Many people are fleeing awful conditions in their home countries, where gangs threaten them or their family members. However, building a wall won't necessarily keep them out. Many undocumented people in the US have come here on an airplane and overstayed their tourist visas.

Vargas was put on a plane by his mother in 1993 to join his grandmother and grandfather, legal residents of the US, in California. But his family didn't realize they could have adopted him and changed his status to legal, and he's been undocumented ever since. Even still, he's been a contributing member of society, even paying federal taxes. It puts paid to the lie that undocumented workers come here to "steal" our benefits and live off entitlements. Vargas paid taxes for years for benefits he couldn't claim, thanks to his inability to become a legal citizen.

Even worse, there is no way for him to become legal. He came here without a choice, and as a result, there is no line for him to join to change his status. He's been undocumented for so long that if he left, he would be banned from the US, his home now, for ten years. Not only that, but as a gay man, he would endure terrible hardships under the rule of President Duterte in the Philippines. I would not wish that on anyone.

This is a book that I feel that all Americans need to read with an open mind. Our immigration policies need reforming, and we need to figure out how to allow DREAMers to stay here legally.
Profile Image for Meredith.
10 reviews
April 9, 2019
Vargas’s story is urgent and I’m glad he has told it (and continues to tell it in other spaces). But this book — broken into vignettes that range from memoir to ethical plea to policy reportage — oscillated too much for me to really connect with it for any sustained amount of time. For one thing, the writing itself is inconsistent (and may have benefitted from better editing; there were several instances of glaring repeated phrasing). For another, his account is unsteady on its feet, and the vignettes often feel disjointed.

In some areas I was desperate for richer detail; I wish he had spoken more about his childhood in the Philippines, his relationships with his family members, and his feelings toward his inevitable Americanization. He raises vital, interesting questions — about identity, about citizenship and how it is and is not deployed— but he doesn’t always engage with them directly or meaningfully. And yet I found myself completely disinterested in certain sections. He gets bogged down by a need to respond to critics on both sides of aisle, unloading anecdotes that are sometimes self-serving and shallow. I don’t think this defensiveness is unnatural; it just doesn’t make for compelling reading.

Still, it would have been impossible for me to remain totally unmoved, and at certain moments I cried for this man and this system that has failed him, that was built to fail him, that continues to fail millions. His narrative may have seemed so wobbly and meandering to me because that is the reality of immigration, because the path itself (if you can call it that) is meandering, a labyrinth of red tape and confusion and fear with no guarantee of arriving at a destination. If Vargas’s voice fluctuates, if it feels like he is grasping for the right words, it may be because there are no right words — and because figuring out who you are is next to impossible in a country that denies your right to simply be.
Profile Image for Deacon Tom F.
1,849 reviews147 followers
November 21, 2020

An Awesome Book! A Total Winner!!

Without a doubt, I thoroughly enjoyed the memoir, "Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen" by Jose Antonio Vargas. It is truly a splendid book that helped change the way I look the status of immigrants in the USA.

The main character/author, Jose is also the narrator. His writing is at times brutal and joyful but always honest to the core. The author weaves a myriad of feeling into this tale. Feelings like sorrow, apprehension, joy, fear expectations and doubt intoevery chapter.

In my ministry, I have come to know a few undocumented. So, at times I genuinely cried and at other sections laughed. This book is very realistic.

I highly recommend this book to all especially if you are a native born US citizen.
Profile Image for Charlene.
911 reviews79 followers
July 15, 2018
Would recommend this book to everyone for insight into our current immigration crisis. Vargas's name was vaguely familiar to me as a journalist when I first saw notices about this book's upcoming publication. He "outed" himself as undocumented several years ago through a dramatic NYT article in 2011; he wrote a cover story on undocumented immigrants (including himself) in 2012.
But book isn't about legalities or politics, it is Vargas's own story. His mother put him on a plane as a child to join his grandparents (naturalized American citizens) in California & that's where he grew up. He did not realize until he applied for a driver's license that the paperwork provided by his grandfather was fake. He was able to confide in a few school teachers/administrators who helped him to college and from there he was able to launch a very successful career. But after entering the country without documentation, it seems there's no practical way to get back on a path to legal residency and citizenship (that's something I did not understand before ).
After more than 2/3rds of his life in America, Vargas is still in a state of "homelessness", even though he considers America his country.
Book short and personal but does a good job of conveying the confusion and misperceptions about the current immigration policies in this country.
Profile Image for Becky.
1,378 reviews1,651 followers
November 6, 2019
I don't even know how to start this review. Honestly, this memoir kind of broke my heart. I can't imagine living in the kind of hellish limbo that undocumented people must endure, and in Vargas' (and MANY others' cases) through no choice or fault of their own. They were children when they came here, and grew up here knowing no other life, often not even realizing that they are undocumented until much later.

I'm an American citizen, through no effort of my own. I was born here, because my parents were born here... but at some point, someone in their family lines had to come here, and chances are that they had a much, MUCH easier time of it than people do now. I constantly hear the "come here legally" refrain from armchair immigration experts, but I'd be willing to bet my yearly salary that almost none of those people have any idea what that actually means. It's just an easy talking point. "Come here legally!" "Get in line." "Come in the front door!" Ignoring the fact (if they even know it) that every single time that immigration policy comes up, legislation consistently makes it HARDER to actually come here legally, not easier. And having already been here illegally, regardless of whether it was their choice or not, the process of getting legal status gets immeasurably harder to attain.

I cannot even imagine the bravery that it took for Vargas to out his status publicly, knowing that he would be irrevocably changing his life and prospects. He, thankfully, had made a name for himself as a journalist, and along the way had made a lot of really supportive friends, so he had a support system in place to help cushion the blow, and because he was well known, he has a bit of celebrity as well, which helps to bring awareness and a face to the issue. Too often, undocumented immigrants (or any kind of immigrants) are demonized as a general concept of "other" people coming to take our jobs and mooch off of the system. Which again is just pure ignorance, because even undocumented people have to pay INTO the system, but they can't access it for benefits since they don't have legal status here. (Hell, I mean, it's hard for CITIZENS to get benefits sometimes. I'm guessing that the people who are claiming that people just waltz over the border and start their welfare cash grabbing have never actually had to apply for any kind of benefits or assistance themselves.)

Anyway, I digress. This is a big issue, and there are a ton of facets and nuances to it. Some people come here for opportunity and the "American Dream", and others come here because they are fleeing their war-torn country or gang violence or natural disasters or a million other reasons, and have picked up and made their way here with nothing. To demonize them as lazy moochers (who somehow also want to steal your job??) or criminals or deviants or whatever is just... wrong. Every person's story is different, and every person's reason for being here is different. I wish that we could be a bit more open minded and accepting and helpful instead of hateful and Us vs Them. Are there immigrants who take advantage? I'm sure there are. Just as there are citizens who take advantage. Are there immigrants who break the law? Yep. Just as there are citizens who break the law. We're all people just trying to make the best lives we can.

Profile Image for Donna.
3,972 reviews53 followers
November 6, 2019
This book is just what the title says it is....I like when that is the case. The author described his journey as an undocumented citizen in America. He was diligent in his efforts and used his ingenuity to get to where he thought he wanted to go. I admire that kind of persistence and passion. Both of those things came through loud and clear. For a memoir, this was well thought out. And he came across as kind and respectful.

Before I started this, I came to an agreement with myself that if this was going to be a whiny-blame game approach to immigration, I was going to quit listening to it immediately. Thankfully that wasn't the case. His frustration with trying to become a documented citizen of the U.S. was eloquently stated. And I get it. I have a cute little daughter in law who is going through that same thing. It is crazy hard, not to mention expensive. So some of this resonated with me. 4 stars. And I feel like I need to write a letter to my congressmen.
Profile Image for B.
16 reviews2 followers
November 19, 2018
3.5 stars. I was inspired to read this book because I wanted to uncover details regarding our current immigration crisis. I did learn copious information from this beautifully written book, so I definitely think it is worth reading.

However, to my surprise, I found myself annoyed with Antonio Vargas many times in the book. He is critical of our current immigration situation, and I agree that there are a lot of issues…but he also doesn’t offer any solutions or advice. The media and Trump continue to demonize immigrants, as Antonio Vargas mentions, which is unfair. Regardless, there does need to be a system though for deciding who to let in and who to keep out. I don’t think this stems from the fact that people coming in are “immigrants,” but instead relates to the maxim that people are human and there's good and bad in everybody. A country must monitor even its own citizens to make sure they obey the laws, and undocumented individuals are not an exception to that rule. There’s no denying that people like Jose offer wonderful contributions to our society. However, not everyone will. Not every undocumented person will pay taxes, as Jose does. I appreciated his honesty and vulnerability, but I also noticed that he was extremely defensive and relied heavily on emotional appeal to justify his argument.

I have always believed that our country should help carve a path to citizenship for undocumented individuals. Our policies are way too strict. I understand why Jose hasn’t left the U.S., and I am not arguing that he should be deported. I recognize my own privilege as a U.S. citizen because I have never encountered the hardships that Jose has endured. I struggle to take a stance on immigration because I teeter between empathy and practicality, but this book provided me with clarity about the facts and definitely made me think.
Profile Image for Author Dawnette Brenner.
Author 1 book35 followers
October 17, 2018
Finished this one in two days! I couldn’t put it down. It was as if my mother were reading to me about her life, supporting all people. She truly did, marching with Cesar Chavez, working on farms, so did I. We were never “too good” as ‘white people!’

This book though; amazing, horrific and brought me to tears.

We must do something to end ALL FORMS of discrimination!

This week I’ve spoken with several guests on my show about mental health & illness. While reading #Dearamerica I couldn’t help but ponder the psychological affects on children that are being told their illegal, after being brought to America. They too are seeking the chance for a better life. Are we dehumanizing people? How can a person be “illegal” anyway?
My mother raised me to respect everyone, despite their religion, nationality, skin color, gender, sexual orientation or psychological state. Everyone should be treated with respect, decency and kindness. I looked up immigrant, it states: im·mi·grant
a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country.
Everyone coming to this country immigrated. 70%+ of Americans are immigrants! Why are we treating people that call the USA their home, so poorly? Jose is innocent, he came here through no choice of his own. He is an upstanding citizen, and contributes to our economy and has made a positive contribution to the world of journalism.

Profile Image for Shirley Freeman.
1,156 reviews14 followers
August 10, 2018
Here's another book every American should read. Not because it will cause us all to be of one mind concerning immigration but because it will give us all a starting point for civil discourse. It is the story of one real person behind the statistics. Many folks who are more in tune with current culture will know who Jose Antonio Vargas is but I had never heard of him. He's a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who discovered he was undocumented when he went to apply for a driver's license at age 16. Originally from the Philipines, Vargas has lived in the U.S. for 25 years. He's now 37 and hasn't seen his mother since she put him on a plane when he was 12. His story is one of incredible resilience and bravery and also lying and homelessness (as in having no country he can call home). I feel called to become more educated about immigration and to become part of the solution to our current struggles. (to be published in September)
Profile Image for Brad Bowman.
13 reviews6 followers
October 9, 2018
Utilizing his own experience, Vargas imbues discussions of displacement, residency, and identity with the utmost humanity. Most poignant are his reflections on his own belonging. “Trading a private life that was in limbo for a public life that is still in limbo...” (184) Vargas is most insightful when he’s looking inward and sharing his emotions of loss, losing, and being lost in his own American story.

“Dear America” questions as much as it tries to answer, but importantly it’s a necessary narrative that speaks to the dysphoria that is part of a larger immigrant experience. It’s a small portait of experience but one that fits into a larger, more contextual mosaic. These stories are imperative for rhetoric, statistics, and laws surrounding immigration because it grounds them with the lives and families they affect. Vargas, amongst others, is a testament to the many ways of being American.
Profile Image for Colleen .
388 reviews187 followers
January 14, 2021
A very nice, readable story documenting an experience of a man who has been here for 25 years. Brought to America as a child from the Philippines, with no say in what is transpiring, he has had to struggle to live with no legal documents to support his right to drive, work, etc. Nevertheless, he has managed to fulfill his dream as a journalist and bring to light some of the issues and educate others to help address this very real situation and barriers which clearly needs improvement.

The master narrative.

I cite their race because it's a crucial element of their power. Black writers gave me permission to question America. Black writers challenged me to find my place here and created a space for me to claim. Reading black writers opened doors to other writers of color, specifically Asian and Latino authors whose work was often even more marginalized than that of black writers.

"Global migration crisis" is in reality a natural progression of history. The promise of the American Dream - a better life, but we are also here because you were there-the cost of American imperialism and globalization, the impact of economic policies and political decisions. We need a new language around migration and the meaning of citizenship. Our survival depends on the creation and understanding of this new language. People like us come to America because America was in our countries.

The U.S. spends more money each year on border and immigration enforcement than the combined budgets of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Secret Service, and the U.S. Marshals. $100 billion tax dollars since 9/11.

Profile Image for Mel.
698 reviews41 followers
July 30, 2019
Thank goodness for people like Jose, willing to openly share their stories and shake the system that tries to hold them back with the fear of persecution and deportation. He happens to be a gay man as well as undocumented so he references having two different coming-out moments, first when he declared the truth of his sexuality despite his Catholic family, and then again, after more than 20 years in America, he admitted his status to all of his closest friends and colleagues, no longer willing to hide. As a traveling reporter especially this choice clearly took a huge amount of bravery, but he gallantly wanted to be the voice for the millions of others in America who have to be quiet and take what they can get as they try to make the best life they can for their families in the states and/or back home. He broke the law as an adult, yes, manipulating the system in a way that allowed him to get the bare minimum identification that was required to work, but as a child who was sent on a plane alone from the Philippines to the US, he had no choice and, scared of the stigma and hate persistently unloaded onto undocumented people stealing jobs, he felt like he was doing the only thing he could do once he discovered as a teen that his papers had been faked to get him on that plane in the first place. He has my utmost respect for putting together everything in this book and schooling us all on how much work the system has to do to be better for ALL citizens.
Profile Image for Audrey.
Author 14 books114 followers
December 11, 2018
Jose Antonio Vargas's story of "coming out" as undocumented is heartbreaking not only because of his personal experience but because of our collective unwillingness to find solutions that will help not only him but millions of others who have come here seeking opportunity and sometimes escaping unspeakable horror.

I learned a lot from this book about how the immigration system actually works--or doesn't. We, as a society, don't do well with shades-of-gray issues, or problems with no easy solutions, or issues that reach back into our history. I'm often tempted, as a second-/third-generation immigrant myself, to throw up my hands and say "it's not my fault!" Technically, that may be true, but in fact I am a citizen now, and that privilege demands that I acknowledge responsibility for fixing a broken system.

I appreciated Vargas's tremendous courage and honesty in sharing all the details of his story, even when they weren't pretty. It made for compelling reading and an even stronger desire on my part to be part of a solution. My first step will be to check out his non-profit, Define American.
Profile Image for Laura Sackton.
1,073 reviews90 followers
December 3, 2018
The best--and most harrowing--parts of this book were the most personal bits. Vargas writes matter-of-factly about life as an undocumented citizen, and it's all the ordinary things that undocumented people simply cannot take for granted that drives home how deep and far-reaching and life-threatening this country's problems with immigration are. It brings into stark relief just how terrifying and complicated life can be for people who live, work, and raise families in this country, but who the government refuses to protect or serve (despite being happy to take their money). Vargas's account is raw, honest, and nuanced. It's a powerful piece of writing about a deeply unjust system, and the cost that system has on ordinary lives.

Highly recommended, and the audiobook, which Vargas narrates, is fantastic.
Profile Image for Megan Lawson.
128 reviews2 followers
October 14, 2018
Every single person in America should read this book. Jose Antonio Vargas tells his story, his experiences, his how, and his why of being an undocumented citizen of the United States.

If you want to change opinions, if you want to help people understand other cultures, other lives, the best way is through stories and personal connections. Obviously, I don't know Vargas personally but I have taught many students who have had similar experiences.

What would you do if you suddenly found out at 16 that you had no legal documentation for the country that you had come to call home? What would you do if, despite what the news media likes to expel, there is no real "path" for citizenship or a "line" to get into without completely destroying the entire life you have lived or waiting in a broken land for decades? What would you do if your home wasn't safe and your children were dying?

"Inside the cell I came to the conclusion that we do not have a broken immigration system. We don't. What we're doing - waving a "Keep Out!" flag at the Mexican border while holding up a Help Wanted sign a hundred yards in - is deliberate. Spending billions building fences and walls, locking people up like livestock, deporting people to keep the people we don't want out, tearing families apart, breaking spirits - all of that serves a purpose. People are forced to lie, people spend years if not decades passing in some kind of purgatory. And step by step, this immigration system is set up to do exactly what it does.
Dear America, is this what you really want? Do you even know what is happening in your name?
I don't know what else you want from us.
I don't know what else you need us to do."
142 reviews1 follower
October 8, 2018
picked it up since, with the crazy immigrant policy that changes daily in America, and having been thru constant status change and lottery and visa materials as a legal immigrant, I can't understand, how, without all the paper work that's required even for us, someone can live in the U.S. as illegal, go to a rich neighborhood high school, net work with them, and work for the Washington Post.
A lot of my answers are still not answered. But as some other reviews mentioned, the first 2/3 of the book is great with his experience. The final part is full of fairy strong opinions and not very organized writing. I understand as an activist you need to express opinion while you can, but that shouldn't last 1/3 of the book. And personal opinions without evidence, logic from reality is just opinion.
443 reviews4 followers
September 24, 2018
If nothing else this remarkable and well written memoir serve to put a human face on the immigration issue in our nation. It is a quick and insightful read, that caused me to pause along the way and think hard about what it means to be an citizen of America. We are after all save for the Native Americans, and African Americans--- a country made up of immigrants. Some of have been fortunate enough to have our path to citizenship given to us by nature of our birth doing nothing to earn it. our path to citizenship given to us by our ancestors.
The book served for me to frame the issues in a human way and it was enough for me. I will hope to learn more
Profile Image for Jessica.
199 reviews3 followers
October 18, 2018
After all, if Americans could come and claim the Philippines, why can’t Filipinos move to America?

This probably wouldn't have hit me as hard as it did if Vargas wasn't Filipino, but since he is, I saw so many of my loved ones in his story, from my mother and my countless aunties who did everything they could to get here to my family back in the Philippines who will never be allowed to come. This was the most difficult book I've ever read and I cried the whole time but it was 100% worth it.
Profile Image for Ryan Mishap.
3,394 reviews62 followers
November 30, 2018
A beautiful and searing memoir, confessional, and demand that reveals the pain caused by being undocumented; from being "othered" and treated as an outsider, an invader, as not a real American.

Absolutely necessary for everyone to read--I'm sad that those in this country who hate or disparage immigrants probably don't read books, and, if they do, they probably won't read this one.
Profile Image for Brian Kovesci.
689 reviews11 followers
July 31, 2018
This book needs to be read.

"There comes a moment in each of our lives when we must confront the central truth in order for life to go on." (p. 110)
Profile Image for julianna ➹.
207 reviews268 followers
May 20, 2021
I think that illegal immigrants is an incredibly important topic that we all need to discuss, particularly the fact that virtually zero citizens actually know America's citizenship/immigration policies in depth & that people place a lot of blame on undocumented citizens when it is often INCREDIBLY hard to become a legal citizen.

However... I found that this book definitely varied in quality, and was definitely a lot less strong in the first half, which mainly consisted of his childhood in America. I'm not sure why, but the writing felt boring and kind of detached, even when discussing the racism he faced in schools or his hardships. Personally, I didn't FEEL anything, and didn't find that that part of the narrative really contributed much to the memoir.

The far stronger section was the story of when he actually announced to the world that he was undocumented and his discussions of the backlash he faced from movements that thought he was "too successful" or of people confronting him in person.

Also, it's pretty amazing that Jose Antonio Vargas wrote this story that then received a cover on TIME magazine. Like LOOK at this.
Profile Image for thefourthvine.
572 reviews199 followers
May 16, 2021
This book is 3/4 memoir, 1/4 discussion of immigration and politics. The issues surrounding undocumented immigration are covered at a very basic, very personal level, which is great if this is your first exposure to the concept beyond pundits shouting "illegals" and "anchor babies" and so on. Vargas is clearly writing here for an audience with a lot of false beliefs about immigration (like that people who are here undocumented have routes to citizenship, or that undocumented people are a drain on the economy) and almost no personal familiarity with immigrants and undocumented people. I've known several undocumented people in my life, so this stuff was not new to me. I found it a compelling, fast read anyway. Vargas's story is both unique, because it's his, and familiar, because elements of it are shared by so many people around the country.

I am glad I read this, even if it didn't tell me anything new, and I'm planning to have my twelve year old read it. This is a story he needs to know.
Profile Image for Lindsey.
250 reviews15 followers
September 26, 2018
**I received an ARC of this book from my local bookstore in exchange for a review.**

Jose Antonio Vargas, author of Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen, was born in the Philippines. At age 12 his mother sent him to the United States to live with her parents. At sixteen Vargas discovers that his papers are fake. Still, decades later at the writing of this book, Vargas is still here illegally.

In Dear America, Vargas chronicles his journey from leaving the Philippines at the age of 12 to growing up with his mother's parents and discovering the fake papers. He gives credit to those who helped him as a high school student, as a young adult getting his first journalist job, and so on. Through all of this the reader is able to witness Vargas' struggles, his pain, and most of all his constant worry of what might happen to him if his secret is ever found out.

This book is a call to arms. A whistle blowing on what it is like to live in fear every day as an undocumented individual. It is also posing the question of what does it mean to be American? How does our country and its leaders define "American," provided they even give any thought to it. This is one of the many questions Vargas asks over and over again throughout the course of the book. This is a book about lying to get by, about families, and about what it means to not really have a home.

Even though this is an ARC the errors in this book were numerous, and were sometimes distracting from the narrative. I hope that the published copy does more justice in this area to Vargas' story.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,528 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.