We all know that the subject of immigration is deeper than it would appear on the surface. While many people immigrate for a better job or a better future for their families, there are many problems facing the typical immigrant. We see this on the news as people fight to “secure our borders,” while others fight for immigrant’s rights. But what about those who immigrate and their families? What is it like to be an immigrant? Not only does uncertainty face those who immigrate, but it faces the families of those who come to the North as well. This week’s book, Bettina Restrepo’s Illegal, puts immigration into this realistic context.
Illegal tells the story of Nora, a young girl whose father leaves Mexico in search of work in the North. Her father maintains constant contact with the family, sending letters and money to the family as frequently as possible. While Nora is sad that her father is gone, she remains hopeful that he will return and they will live a better life one day. However, when her father’s letters and money stop coming, Nora and her mother cross the border into Texas to look for him. Now, not only is Nora without her father, but she too is also an immigrant in this strange land forced to readjust.
While the title may be a bit off-putting at first, this is exactly the kind of conversation and thought provoking literature we should consider on immigration. What does it mean to be “illegal”? How are such umbrella terms hurtful? The immigration experience tends to be unique, but universal at the same time. Children and adults alike will experience similar forms of discrimination. In many aspects, this book describes Nora’s coming of age story, and it contributes to the discussion of what readjustment means for teens, especially when there is a level of ambiguity regarding family members. It can be an intense, scary process for those involved on both sides as this book discusses what it is like to miss a family member who has migrated as well as what it’s like to be the immigrant.
I hope you will check out Restrepo’s Illegal for your young adult readers!
Until Next Time,