I received a courtesy ARC of My (Underground) American Dream through Netgalley and the publisher, Center Street, in exchange for an honest review.
For an undocumented immigrant, what is the true cost of the American Dream? Julissa Arce shares her story in a riveting memoir.
When she was 11 years old Julissa Arce left Mexico and came to the United States on a ARCE_My+Underground+American+Dream_covertourist visa to be reunited with her parents, who dreamed the journey would secure her a better life. When her visa expired at the age of 15, she became an undocumented immigrant. Thus began her underground existence, a decades long game of cat and mouse, tremendous family sacrifice, and fear of exposure.
After the Texas Dream Act made a college degree possible, Julissa’s top grades and leadership positions landed her an internship at Goldman Sachs, which led to a full time position–one of the most coveted jobs on Wall Street. Soon she was a Vice President, a rare Hispanic woman in a sea of suits and ties, yet still guarding her “underground” secret. In telling her personal story of separation, grief, and ultimate redemption, Arce shifts the immigrant conversation, and changes the perception of what it means to be an undocumented immigrant. (via Goodreads)
I went into this book having read nothing about it but the summary, and not really knowing what to expect. Julissa Arce is a skilled writer, and her story makes a compelling read.
I would like everyone to read this book, especially if they don’t know anything about immigration. The immigration process is so hard to understand because it’s so complicated. There’s so much you can learn by listening to other people’s stories, and Julissa really put herself out there by telling her story.
“Immigrants do not come to the United States to take anything away from Americans. We come to America to give our sweat, blood, and tears to pursue our dreams.”
I’d recommend this book for people who want to learn more about the life of an undocumented immigrant that doesn’t match the stereotypes we see in the media, even in some of our presidential candidates speeches every day. Every single person has their own story, their own issues, and this can be a good reminder of that. If you enjoy shows like Jane the Virgin or Ugly Betty, I think you’d enjoy this book, because they both touch on immigration in a way that is compassionate and honest.
I’m rating this book four stars, because it’s a really important narrative, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It was released on Sept. 13, so order it through your local bookstore or through Indiebound!
four stars and one empty one meant to signify a four star review
Julissa Arce, NYC
Julissa Arce, NYC

Julissa Arce is a writer, speaker, and social justice advocate and author of the forthcoming book, MY (UNDERGOUND) AMERICAN DREAM (Hachette Book Group, September 2016). She made national and international headlines when she revealed that she had achieved the American Dream of wealth and status while undocumented. She is the co-founder and chairman of the Ascend Educational Fund, a scholarship fund for immigrant students regardless of their immigration status. She is also on the board of directors of the National Immigration Law Center and the national board of directors of CollegeSpring. Prior to becoming an advocate she built a successful career on Wall Street as a vice president at Goldman Sachs and a director at Merrill Lynch.  Julissa now uses her inspirational story to change the conversation around immigration. Read her full biography here.

2 thoughts on “Review:: My (Underground) American Dream by Julissa Arce”

  1. Thank you for your reviews and thoughts! This memoir sounds very compelling. I love reading stories of success, especially ones where the odds are really stacked up against a person.

    The only hesitation I have with these types of stories is the danger of it becoming the single story of marginalized groups, further marginalizing those folks not ‘living up to the standard’ – like a type of the Model Minority Myth. I can see how readers may misconstrue this memoir as, “well she did it, why can’t all of you others do it too?” Further perpetuating some stereotypes.

    I digress, and I will take your recommendation and add it to my TBR. We all need some uplifting stories in our life and I am happy to see one where her identity is a part of her strength and success and not about her oppression and suffering!

    1. I absolutely agree with you – part of the reason I liked this memoir is because it didn’t perpetuate the stereotype of the Mexican farmer’s family, but I also wouldn’t want this to be another part of a stereotype.

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