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Children of the Land

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  317 ratings  ·  70 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 mans 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 ghost.
ebook, 384 pages
Published January 28th 2020 by Harper
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Average rating 4.24  · 
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 ·  317 ratings  ·  70 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 boys dream of being safe at home is shattered when ICE comes knocking at his door, a man discourses about loving a country thats constantly pushing against you and hating that country for all its done to your ...more
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.
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
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.
Carly Friedman
A strong 3.5 stars. This was a heartbreaking, lyrical memoir about immigration, family, and self-discovery.
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 ...more
Roof Beam Reader (Adam)
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Suggestion: Read this instead of American Dirt.
Jan Priddy
Dec 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: dnf, giveaway
I thank the publishers of this memoir for my "proof" copy.

It is beautiful, painful, abstracta 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 are
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
Leigh Kramer
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was not always an easy read but Im 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 youve been deported, you cant apply for a visa for 10 years. Thats a long time to go
Kyle Smith
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I already look forward to reading this again. Beautiful, important, and intriguing.
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 ...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.

Castillos 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 strove
Mar 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
This memoir is stunning, and so sad. The ending gutted me. Castillo tells the story of his family's decades long journey through the American immigration system, but his story is so much more than that. It's a deeply human and honest portrayal of identity, metal illness, addiction, shame, sexuality, fear, and devotion. Castillo's search for meaning and a sense of belonging keeps him running his whole young adult life. When he is no longer literally being chased, he still can't stop running, but ...more
Jonathan Hernandez
Feb 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Painful, beautiful and honest.

I didnt know how to love my skin, because everyone around me said that to be beautiful meant to be what I was not
Morelia (Strandedinbooks)
I didnt know how to love my skin, because everyone around me said that to be beautiful meant to be what I was not.


First and foremost, Marcelo is a poet so you already know his prose is beautiful and I enjoyed how vividly I was able to picture certain instances, almost as if I had been there myself. I was enthralled, seriously could not stop listening to the audio.

This memoir follows Marcelos immigrant experience in the U.S., a country that continually tries to erase immigrant narratives,
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetree, border
migration is a human right. thank you for sharing this story.

honest and raw. a homecoming / homefinding / longing for home. beautiful prose as only a poet could do. delicate memories interwoven with a more chronological account of how the border and barriers to citizenship, physical barriers, deportation, and ICE will literally tear apart a family and what it takes to keep on the way to healing. the poet comes from generations of ppl crossing the border to make their lovings. i mean livings.

I saw this on a "what to read instead of American Dirt" list, and I'm so glad I did. The writing was so well-crafted (poets writing prose is exactly my favorite thing) and I liked how he structured it. I appreciate the time he took with certain scenes, the lingering and thinking through.
Jessica Klahr
Feb 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was heartbreaking and beautiful and told with such candor and grace. I cant imagine how hard this must have been to write, given all the pain and anxiety surrounding his familys experience with immigration over the years. He managed to articulate his complicated relationship with his geographically estranged father as well as his loving closeness with his mother so well. His insight as someone who obtained a green card through marriage as well as a family member whose parents were ...more
Matthew Noe
Feb 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Painful. Beautiful. Lyrical in a way that makes you want to cry and sing all at once.
Erin Jones
I have mixed feelings about this book. I really like the memoir parts of it-- about being undocumented, about his relationship with his father, and his mother. Really interesting and heartfelt.

It was the some of the other parts where there were random descriptions and snippets of memories that I thought were unnecessary and even a bit annoying. I know he is a poet...trying to be edgy? Provocative? Trying too hard, in my opinion. Also rub-off from Roxanne Gay's Hunger in his constant use of the
Feb 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-review
I was trying to read this at the same time I was listening to The Devil's Highway and had to pause because I was unfortunately mixing up the two books (in total, they aren't the same at all except for being the stories of migrants to the US, but my brain kept swapping details between them)

A very poetic memoir about a poet's childhood in the US as an undocumented immigrant contrasted with the lives of his parents and grandparents who each crossed the US border several times. There were a few
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
Deeply moving memoir about what it is like to live in America undocumented.

In Marcelo Hernandez Castillos 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 head
Feb 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Imagine a time in your life when you struggled to find your identity. When you felt torn between belonging to something, or someone, versus merely just...existing.

Now imagine living your entire childhood and adulthood in fear. Fear of being heard, or seen. Because if someone suspects that you're not from here, what will happen to you?

In Marcelo Hernandez Castillo's memoir, we hear about his family's experience of living undocumented in the United States. We catch a glimpse into why someone
Feb 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"I wanted to exist in a place that had no relationship to the border-at-large or to immigration or to my status or my family's. I just wanted a tree, a beach, a mountain, even a bird, not tinged the color of all my fake documents. But where could I go that didn't involve a border in one way or another . Where on earth is a border irrelevant? How could I create a small landscape of memories divorced from that spectacle? "

I came upon this book because of all the "American Dirt" controversy. (You
Amidst the controversy over another recently published book, I kept seeing this new release pop up as an alternative own voices read about the border and undocumented immigration. Marcelo Hernandez Castillo's memoir describes his time being undocumented, getting his green card, and trying to help his parents stay in or return to the U.S. It deals with common misconceptions about immigration law, as his mother had lived in the U.S. for decades but was still unable to become a resident.

He details
courtney lynn (reorganizedreads)
What are our lives comprised up of but fragments of memories or moments in time? Marcelo Hernandez Castillo shows us this in his memoir, Children of the Land. Through snippets of moments from his own life, he unravels the complexity of what it mans to be undocumented in this country and how the road to legitimacy is anything but straight forward.

I was once in the camp of "why can't immigrants just apply for a green card?" or "why can't they just do it legally?" But his story and the story of
Mar 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Today,March 11, the Supreme Court said" the Trump administration may continue its 'Remain in Mexico' policy for asylum seekers while lower court challenges continue, after the federal government warned that tens of thousands of immigrants amassed at the southern border.."Reading this one hour after I finished this powerful and haunting memoir it really hit home. Castillo came to the US as an undocumented 5 year old from Mexico with his family.What the author conveyed in a lyrical poetic fashion ...more
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