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Dear America: A Review of Jose Antonio Vargas’ Notes of an Undocumented Citizen

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By: burgundy bug

Dear America, Notes of an Undocumented Citizen

Source: Dear America, Notes of an Undocumented Citizen | Penelope Peru Photography P³

Dear America, Notes of an Undocumented Citizen is an incredibly personal recount of the Pulitzer Prize Winner Jose Antonio Vargas’ firsthand experience in the United States as an undocumented citizen.

A Bit of Context…

This book is not about immigration at all.Vargas’ states on his website. “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.

Vargas’ is a pulitzer prize winning journalist who has written for major national publications such as The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, as well as The New Yorker, as he covers in the book Dear America, Notes of an Undocumented Citizen.

In 1993, Vargas’ mother sent him to live with his grandparents, Lolo and Lola in America. At just 12 years old, he made the journey over from the Philippines with his “uncle” who he later finds out was a coyote – a man paid to fly him into the United States.

It wasn’t until Vargas applied for his driver’s license at 16 years old that he learned his green card was fake.

Since then, Vargas has spent his life struggling to find his place in America and gain his citizenship.

“Being an American felt like a role I had to play,” Vargas writes in the first chapter of the second section of his book. “In an extemporaneous one-man play I made up after I found out I was not supposed to be in America.”

The author binged on U.S. pop culture and made a name for himself as a journalist in an attempt to justify his place in the United States.

Although Vargas came out as an undocumented citizen in My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant, an article The New York Times published in 2011, he remains undetected by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Vargas has also been unable to gain citizenship due to a multitude of technicalities in U.S. immigration policies.

Along with releasing Dear America in Sept. 2018, Vargas is involved in Define American, a non-profit organization he founded to redefine immigration as well as citizenship.

Bug’s Two Cents

Vargas’ story is nothing short of captivating.

As a writer, he does an excellent job transcribing the psychological toll of jumping through loopholes as an undocumented citizen.

Despite separation, internal conflict, as well as living in a constant state of “playing the part of an American” his attitude and outlook on life are refreshing.

Dear America, Notes of an Undocumented Citizen gives an intimate glimpse into the side of immigration our government and media gallantly brush under the rug.

Not only does Vargas paint vivid images of his circumstances, he brings the reader into the disorienting and dissociative byproduct of having to “lie to get by”

After the jaw-dropping 232 page read, I found myself dying for more. Dear America made me smile, cry, clench my fists, and filled my head with so many questions about my government.

Whether you’re for or against immigration, I can not recommend this book enough. Without a doubt, Dear America, Notes of an Undocumented Citizen gets five out of five notes from me.

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burgundy bug


A cynical optimist and mad scientist undercover, burgundy bug is the editor, graphic designer, webmaster, social media manager, and primary photographer for The Burgundy Zine. Entangled in a web of curiosity, burgundy bug’s work embodies a wide variety of topics including: neuroscience, psychology, ecology, biology, cannabis, reviews, fashion, entertainment, and politics. You can learn more about working with burgundy bug by visiting her portfolio website: burgundybug.com

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