An acclaimed Mexican-born poet’s account of the sometimes-overwhelming struggles he and his parents faced in their quest to become American citizens.
Hernandez Castillo (Cenzontle, 2018, etc.) first came to the United States with his undocumented Mexican parents in 1993. But life in the shadows came at a high price. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided their home on multiple occasions and eventually deported the author’s father back to Mexico. In this emotionally raw memoir, Hernandez Castillo explores his family’s traumas through a fractured narrative that mirrors their own fragmentation. Of his own personal experiences, he writes, “when I came undocumented to the U.S., I crossed into a threshold of invisibility.” To protect himself against possible identification as an undocumented person, he excelled in school and learned English “better than any white person, any citizen.” When he was old enough to work, he created a fake social security card to apply for the jobs that helped him support his fatherless family. After high school, he attended college and married a Mexican American woman. He became an MFA student at the University of Michigan and qualified for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allowed him to visit his father in Mexico, where he discovered the depth of his cultural disorientation. Battling through ever present anxiety, the author revisited his and his parents’ origins and then returned to take on the difficult interview that qualified him for a green card. His footing in the U.S. finally solidified, Hernandez Castillo unsuccessfully attempted to help his father and mother qualify for residency in the U.S. Only after his father was kidnapped by members of a drug cartel was the author able to help his mother, whose life was now in danger, seek asylum in the U.S. Honest and unsparing, this book offers a detailed look at the dehumanizing immigration system that shattered the author’s family while offering a glimpse into his own deeply conflicted sense of what it means to live the so-called American dream.
A heartfelt and haunting memoir just right for the current political and social climate.