Karla Cornejo Villavicencio (born 1989) is an Ecuadorian-American writer who has channeled her own experiences as an undocumented immigrant into her bestseller memoir The Undocumented Americans (New York: One World, 2020), which was shortlisted for the National Book Award for Nonfiction, and on just about everyone's "best of the year" list. She graduated from Harvard in 2011 as one of the first undocumented immigrants to do so. Today she is a PhD student at Yale.

 Karla Cornejo Villavicencio for the National Book Foundation.
Karla Cornejo Villavicencio.

The bland title of this memoir belies its incandescent tone. Don't imagine that you'll read anything like the standard journalistic detachment here. Quite the contrary. Villavicencio writes with an angry edge, and to good effect. She writes not to inspire, or even in the hopes that you will "like" her book.  Rather, she says that she writes "from a place of shared trauma, shared memories, shared pain."

She's captured what real life for her fellow undocumented immigrants is like—day laborers, dish washers, house cleaners, construction workers, dog walkers, deliverymen, and cab drivers (like her dad, before he lost his job and became a salad maker). In her telling, these people are far more than "laborers, sufferers, or dreamers." They are our fellow human beings who deserve our compassion and respect. Each of her six chapters explores a specific place—Staten Island, Ground Zero, Miami, Flint, Cleveland, and New Haven. 

On the weekly public radio program This American Life, Villavicencio talks about her personal life and her bestseller book in a piece called "I Can't Be Your Hero, Baby." See here: https://www.thisamericanlife.org/700/embiggening/act-one-7

Dan Clendenin: dan@journeywithjesus.net