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The Brown Girl World: Marisela's, Yadira's, Clara's and Elissa's Story

Tuesday, May 04, 2010
From Publishers Weekly:  By the time Marisela, Yadira, Clara and Elissa - four girls of Mexican descent from the suburbs of Denver - entered their freshman year in high school, they were inseparable, but four years later, their fundamental difference threatened to divide them: Clara and Elissa were legal residents, but Marisela and Yadira had begun to suffer the repercussions of their parents' choice to illegally enter the U.S.
From  When she embarked on her galvanizing book....Helen Thorpe had a policy wonk's interest in immigration, leavened with her own "odd sense of dual identity" as someone who herself arrived in the United States as a child. As her eyes are slowly opened to the catch-22 aspects of American immigration law, ours are, too, and we become conscious of how achingly complex the whole question of who we punish for entering the country illegally really is. Her engaging protagonists, Yadira, Marisela, Clara, and Elissa, are the offspring of Mexican parents living in Colorado at or below the poverty line. All four finish high school with distinction and go on to college. But there's a profound dividing line: Clara and Elissa have papers; Yadira and Marisela are illegal. As the years go by, the consequences of being undocumented multiply: no getting on a plane ever, no driver's license, no financial aid, no good way to convert that degree into a profession. Without a nation, practically speaking, to return to, these are the limbo children. Thorpe intelligently drills away at the harsh reality of such facts—what should we do, deport half a family? Through the girls' heart-tugging struggles, Thorpe puts a human face on a frequently obtuse conversation, and in so doing takes us far beyond the political rhetoric.
Please click here to read an excerpt from Just Like Us.
"With a perfect combination of narrative and reflection, empathy and analysis, Helen Thorpe tells both a particular story of four irresistibly engaging young women, and a universal story of the struggle between human aspiration and intractable obstacles. If this book gets widely read, our national conversation on immigration could make a shift from 'shrill and draining' to 'thoughtful and productive.' In this book, the force and power of journalism reach their peak."
-- Patricia Nelson Limerick, author



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