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Children of the Land

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  1,620 ratings  ·  277 reviews
This unforgettable memoir from a prize-winning poet about growing up undocumented in the United States recounts the sorrows and joys of a family torn apart by draconian policies and chronicles one young man’s attempt to build a future in a nation that denies his existence.

“You were not a ghost even though an entire country was scared of you. No one in this story was a ghos
ebook, 384 pages
Published January 28th 2020 by Harper
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Average rating 4.09  · 
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 ·  1,620 ratings  ·  277 reviews

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Karen (idleutopia_reads)
Jan 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A boy almost loses his life when a horse is startled, a man discovers he is bisexual long after marrying his high school sweetheart, a man wishes to wait a while before getting his papers because he is afraid that people will think he only married his love to fix his immigration status, a boy’s dream of being safe at home is shattered when ICE comes knocking at his door, a man discourses about loving a country that’s constantly pushing against you and hating that country for all its done to your ...more
In this raw and poetic memoir, Marcelo Hernandez Castillo shares about growing up undocumented in the United States and the ways in which abusive, xenophobic policy tore his family apart. I most appreciated the vividness and vulnerability in which he wrote about his parents. When describing how he witnessed his father’s deportation at 15, he honors the nuance of both the act of deportation itself as an injustice as well as his wanting distance from his father’s mistreatment of his mother. Hernan ...more
Nov 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
A poetic, frank memoir about a Mexican family living without documents in the US. Castillo vividly paints a picture of the insecurity and anxiety he experienced growing up as well as the trauma of dealing with the immigration system. His life is a series of calculations - what is the best speed to drive so as not to get stopped when a ticket means deportation? An educational and eye-opening book.
Carmel Hanes
Mar 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"So much of my energy was spent trying to avoid getting caught...I feared deportation more than I feared ending my life."

"I was trying to dissect the moment of my erasure."

An insider's view of straddling the boundaries of two countries. Brought to the states as a child, growing up with an awareness of his precarious status, Castillo offers an eloquent view of how that no-man's-land messes with your identity, sense of safety, and family constellation. Raised by his mother after his father is depo
Apr 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Highly recommend! Lyrically beautiful 💕
I don't like writing reviews. I don't read books to have something to say about them (stole that from a book I read recently) but b/c I want to read them.

However, this memoir has pushed me to consider trying to review a book. So I'm going to work on that this weekend.

Meanwhile, if you want to read a book about people without documentation living in the US, THIS is THE book of 2020 to read.
Deeply moving memoir about what it is like to live in America undocumented.

In Marcelo Hernandez Castillo’s Children of the Land he details his family crossing over from Mexico into the US undocumented. He gives an unflinching look into what life is like living in America undocumented. The Castillo family have been crossing the Mexican border since before the 1980s for work, and mostly to carve out a better life for themselves.

When Marcelo was five his family decided to leave Mexico and hea
Yesenia Cash
I wanted to love this book due to the subject at hand but aside from it being a little tinsy winsy bit poetic it is just way too long and dragged out in my opinion.
Julia Kardon
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Marcelo Hernandez Castillo is a poet, and if you haven't read his poetry, you should also do that. But the unbelievable beauty of his verse is present here in his prose, as he lays bare the often Kafkaesque and humiliating experience of growing up in the United States undocumented. Also full of wit and joy, CHILDREN OF THE LAND is a must-read for anyone trying to process the immigrant experience in America. ...more
Paris (parisperusing)
No rating at this time. I'm going to make room for this one later. My focus is waning — it's definitely not the story, which is beautifully-written; however, it is the size. Tomes scare me, but I'll revisit in time. <3 ...more
Feb 03, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: won
I have mixed feelings about this book. A poet, Castillo's prose is broken into short story-like segments that jump back and forth between his childhood, his parent's narrative, and his recent experiences with illegal immigration, diaspora, citizenship, and dysfunctional family dynamics.

There was a certain strength in this book, that I believe warrant the three stars, but first, what bothered me personally:

While Castillo has some lovely prose throughout and likes to wax poetically in his memoirs
Roof Beam Reader (Adam)
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Suggestion: Read this instead of American Dirt.
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
Of the three memoirs set around the U.S./Mexico border that I’ve read, I’d rank this one third. The standout is Jean Guerrero’s Crux, a lovely, brutal family history, though unlike the other two it doesn’t much address current issues with illegal immigration. Then comes Reyna Grande’s The Distance Between Us, which like this book includes a childhood experience of crossing the border and being undocumented, as well as fractured family dynamics. Unlike Grande’s book, this one mostly focuses on th ...more
Alicia (A Kernel of Nonsense)
“I ventured to believe that the function of the border wasn’t only to keep people out, at least that was not its long-term function. Its other purpose was to be visible, to be seen, to be carried into the imaginations of migrants deep into the interior of the country, in the interior of their minds. It was a spectacle meant to be witnessed by the world, and all of its death and violence was and continues to be a form of social control, the way that kings of the past needed to behead only one pet ...more
Jan Priddy
Dec 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: giveaway, dnf
I thank the publishers of this memoir for my "proof" copy.

It is beautiful, painful, abstract—a memoir in lyric poetry expanded to fill the pages. I cannot read it all right now. I tried to do the math and discover the age of his mother at childbirth. She is two years younger than me. She had children in her forties. I read a hundred pages, skipped to the end and read that the author is "six months sober" and I stopped right there for a long time to consider. I think: come back to me when you ar
Carly Friedman
A strong 3.5 stars. This was a heartbreaking, lyrical memoir about immigration, family, and self-discovery.
Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)
Mar 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
I really enjoy longer works by poets - be they novels or memoirs or short stories, there’s something about a poet’s command of language and ability to make even a simple sentence carry immense beauty that I deeply admire. CHILDREN OF THE LAND by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo (@harperbooks) was exactly that - the structure (each part shared in these “movements” of sorts) and writing style worked so harmoniously together to convey the enormity of emotion shared in this intimate memoir. This speaks to ...more
Kathleen Gray
Jan 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing, sad, and important. This tale of immigration and a family that simply wants a better life is hard to read in parts because it's true. No doubt we're all familiar with the broad outlines of the undocumented experience but Castillo has captured it in an way that will make you bend your head. That he wanted to be invisible, that his mother went back to Mexico to join his father after the latter was deported, that he has survived even though it has been a painful journey all add up to a boo ...more
Jan 10, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: poc-author
I had some complicated feelings about this one.

Watch my full review here:
Sep 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
" I didn't want to find a home. What I wanted was an origin, which was different than a home, to look and see if that origin had a shape, or if I could give it one... Up until that point I had only heard stories, legends, and myths of my family's past and what life was like on that mountain." ...more
Leigh Kramer
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was not always an easy read but I’m very glad I read it. Please heed the content warnings if you tend to be a sensitive reader, especially regarding child abuse and domestic violence.

Children of the Land is an ownvoices account of growing up undocumented in the US. Marcelo was 5 when his parents and siblings crossed the US border from Tepechitlán, Mexico. He was 15 when his father was deported in 2003. After you’ve been deported, you can’t apply for a visa for 10 years. That’s a long time t
Aug 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing memoir! I had never heard of Marcelo Hernandez Castillo before reading this, but he is definitely a poet and I can not wait to read more. A memoir by a poet is basically my favorite genre of book so this did not disappoint. I listened to the audiobook (not read by the author). I learned so much abt the US immigration system and felt pretty much every emotion possible as I heard his story of coming to America undocumented, becoming a permanent resident and trying to keep his pa ...more
Jo Chang
Feb 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Jan 21, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this title because Rincey Reads recently talked about this book on youtube.

The book has several beautiful, thoughtful passages (please see highlights). He writes about being an undocumented immigrant in the US, an EWI. I note that his family had been in the US, on and off, for several generations, supporting the economy and growth of California. The porous border and the state's dependence on migrant labor are not new, and they reflect a symbiotic relationship between the US and Mexi
Kyle Smith
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I already look forward to reading this again. Beautiful, important, and intriguing.
Apr 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you want to read an authentic story of immigration, this memoir of a Mexican family’s experiences is the one for you. I would give it five stars, but I did not enjoy the way it was written, particularly the way it went back and forth in time.
Tara Nichols
I was thrilled when I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway as it was a highly anticipated book for me. Children of the Land is a beautifully written memoir about the experience of being an undocumented immigrant in the United States. This is a memoir full of loss, fear, and anxiety. And it is also a memoir that so poignantly shows the great lengths that a family will go to for each other.⁣

If you have wanted to read some own voices or firsthand immigrant stories, this is a great one to add to y
Carolyn Klassen
This book opens with a powerful scene of a boy being confronted at the door by ICE agents. They are looking for Marcelo and he thinks he has met his fate of deportation. But no, they are looking for his father by the same name to make sure that he has not snuck back into America after his own deportation. Marcelo grows up largely without a father figure because of ICE. His relationship with his dad is strained by both patriarchal expectations on young boys and also the distance and the difficult ...more
There are passages in this book that pierced me right through the heart, because I relate to so many of the feelings, the pain, the confusion, and the searching that the author refers to. And oh gosh the prose is just stunning… Reading Children of the Land is holding a beating heart in your hands, traveling along the veins and the arteries, digging into the hidden murmurs that the author directs us to, understanding what it means to have to hold everything inside, one foot on either side of a bo ...more
Kyra Johnson
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: review-copies
Children of the Land is a beautifully written memoir by poet Marcelo Hernandez Castillo where he recounts coming of age as an undocumented immigrant in America. ⁣

Castillo’s family made the journey across the border from Mexico when he was five-years-old and rented a home in California. When Castillo was in high school, ICE agents came barging through his door, guns at the ready, looking for his father who was deported a few years prior. Castillo was shaped by these traumatic experiences. He str
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Marcelo Hernandez Castillo is a poet, essayist, translator, and immigration advocate. He is the author of Cenzontle, which was chosen by Brenda Shaughnessy as the winner of the 2017 A. Poulin, Jr. Prize published by BOA editions in 2018, as well as the winner of the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writer Award for poetry, the 2019 Golden Poppy Award from the Northern California Independent Bo ...more

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140 likes · 98 comments
“I ventured to believe that the function of the border wasn’t only to keep people out, at least that was not its long-term function. Its other purpose was to be visible, to be seen, to be carried in the imaginations of migrants deep into the interior of the country, in the interior of their minds. It was a spectacle meant to be witnessed by the world, and all of its death and violence was and continues to be a form of social control, the way that kings of the past needed to behead only one petty thief in the public square to quell thousands more.” 2 likes
“When I came undocumented to the U.S., I crossed into a threshold of invisibility. Every act of living became an act of trying to remain visible. I was negotiating a simultaneous absence and presence that was begun by the act of my displacement: I am trying to dissect the moment of my erasure. I tried to remain seen for those whom I desired to be seen by, and I wanted to be invisible to everyone else. Or maybe I was trying to control who remembered me and who forgot me. But I couldn’t control what someone else saw in me, only persuade them that it was an illusion. There were things that I could not hide, things that would come out of me and expose me in my most vulnerable moments. It was my skin, my dark hair, my cheekbones, that I swore would give me away. I was afraid of the way I walked. It was easy to imagine being hit by a car, because even if they didn’t see me, I would for once be able to feel my body as more than smoke.” 1 likes
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