One of my sharpest memories as a girl was when an immigration officer came to our house in rural Finzel, Maryland when I was about nine years old. He showed up at our house unannounced, and I still remember the stunned look on my mother’s face when she answered the door. I didn’t realize until much later how high the stakes were or how very close we had come to being deported. While I can’t share specifics, I can say that one of the things the officer asked for was the phone number of people my mother knew who could attest to her character. And I remember sitting there in our kitchen hearing the one-sided conversation as he called friends or acquaintances or colleagues of my mother’s, one after another. When he left, I walked with him to the door and he shook my mother’s hand and told her she was a remarkable woman and that if she didn’t hear from him in the next six months, she wouldn’t have to worry about her citizenship status further.
We never heard from the man again, but, not surprisingly, and as with other friends who are immigrants, this experience altered and shaped our experience in the United States.
One of my great joys at Beacon Press is being able to sign progressive books on the issue of immigration and I want to bring eleven of those titles to your attention. They deserve to be read and debated, now more than ever:
We Are All Suspects Now: Untold Stories from Immigrant Communities After 9/11 by Tram Nguyen is about the human cost of the domestic ‘war on terror’ which eerily echoes our times.
David Bacon’s two books—Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants and The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration—are about how the decision to migrate is rarely voluntary.
Aviva Chomsky two books—“They Take Our Jobs!”: And 20 Other Myths about Immigration and Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal—debunks myths about immigration and also shows how ‘illegality’ is a concept that was created to exclude and exploit.
Margaret Regan’s The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona Borderlands and her most recent book Detained and Deported: Stories of Immigrant Stories Under Fire humanize the issue in unforgettable ways. In Detained and Deported, you meet immigrants who, after living in the US for years, now languish in detention centers—often torn from their families—for months or years. Regan demonstrates how increasingly draconian detention and deportation policies have broadened police powers, while enriching a private prison industry whose profits are derived from human suffering.
Journalist Mirta Ojito’s Hunting Season: Immigration and Murder in an All-American Town is the compelling story of the murder of Marcelo Lucero, an undocumented Ecuadorean immigrant, in November 2008 in Patchogue, New York. Drawing on first-hand interviews, it’s an unflinching portrait of one community’s struggle to reconcile the hate and fear underlying the idyllic veneer of the all-American town.
Journalist Eileen Truax’s Dreamers: An Immigrant Generation’s Fight for Their American Dream is a recent and urgent book focusing on the undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children. They are, as President Obama reflected, American “in every single way but one: on paper.”
I conclude with two stunningly written memoirs—Daisy Hernandez’s A Cup of Water Under My Bed and José Orduña’s The Weight of Shadows: A Memoir of Immigration & Displacement. Sandra Cisneros calls Daisy’s book, “A wonderful, heartbreaking, necessary story…” Richard Rodriguez reflected on José’s “exuberant, outlaw literary style...that exactly matches the many ironies of being—and not quite ever being—a North American.”
About the Author
Previously an editor at both Palgrave Macmillan and Routledge, editorial director Gayatri Patnaik has been at Beacon Press nearly fifteen years and has published authors including Cornel West, Kate Bornstein, Marcus Rediker and Mary Frances Berry. She acquires in US History, with a focus on African American History and race/ethnicity/immigration, and began Beacon’s “ReVisioning American History” series. Gayatri occasionally signs memoir, began Beacon’s LGBTQ series, “Queer Action/Queer Ideas,” (edited with Michael Bronski) and developed books in “The King Legacy,” with Joanna Green, in a series about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Follow her on Twitter at @.