“While the U.S. immigration ‘debate’ turns strident in media circles, Caminero-Santangelo intervenes with a call to read carefully the more complex stories that define us as human and humane.”–Debra A. Castillo, coeditor of Mexican Public Intellectuals
“This insightful study brings together Latino fiction, journalistic books, and autobiographical accounts to consider how undocumented people are portrayed in the wake of restrictive immigration policies.”–Rodrigo Lazo, author of Writing to Cuba: Filibustering and Cuban Exiles in the United States
Looking at the work of Junot Díaz, Cristina García, Julia Alvarez, and other Latino/a authors who are U.S. citizens, Documenting the Undocumented: Latino/a Narratives and Social Justice in the Era of Operation Gatekeeper, by Marta Caminero-Santangelo, examines how writers are increasingly expressing their solidarity with undocumented immigrants. Through storytelling, these writers create community and a sense of peoplehood that includes non-citizen Latino/as. This volume also foregrounds the narratives of unauthorized migrants themselves, showing how their stories are emerging into the public sphere.
Immigration and citizenship are multifaceted issues, and the voices are myriad. They challenge common interpretations of “illegal” immigration, explore inevitable traumas and ethical dilemmas, protest their own silencing in immigration debates, and even capitalize on the topic for the commercial market. Yet these texts all seek to affect political discourse by advancing the possibility of empathy across lines of ethnicity and citizenship status.
As border enforcement strategies escalate along with political rhetoric, detentions, and deaths, these counternarratives are more significant than ever before, and their perspectives cannot be ignored. What we are witnessing, argues Caminero-Santangelo, is a mass mobilization of stories. This growing body of literature is critical to understanding not only the Latino/a immigrant experience but also alternative visions of nation and belonging.
Marta Caminero-Santangelo, professor of English at the University of Kansas, is the author of On Latinidad: U.S. Latino Literature and the Construction of Ethnicity and The Madwoman Can’t Speak: Or Why Insanity Is Not Subversive.