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September BOTM Meeting Recap

Discussion topics, media recommendations & resources to finalize (or kickstart) your reading of Karla Cornejo Villavicencio's The Undocumented Americans.


Discussion Topics

If you were unable to read the book this month and have been inspired to do so, feel free to use these questions to guide your own reading and reflection. Nonetheless, here is a summary of some of the things that we discussed during our meeting:

  • In writing The Undocumented Americans, Villavicencio considered herself an essayist, not a journalist. What insights does this give us into her intention for writing? What could this tell us about the relationship between journalism and the exploitation of marginalized stories?

  • In her introduction, Villavicencio accounts for the reader’s potential unfamiliarity with her Ecuadorian heritage. What are some of the ways her story, and the stories of her interviewees, have the potential to change our heuristic of undocumented persons?

  • Compartmentalization and code-switching was a common topic of conversation throughout our discussion, as well as the mental, emotional and relational consequences of splitting oneself in two for the sake of safety.

  • Think about family border separations, particularly the ways in which familial and interpersonal relationships are altered and changed throughout the horrors of crossing national borders.

  • Villavicencio touches on the widespread reduction of undocumented peoples to undocumented workers. What are some of the ways that Villavicencio works to provide an accurate portrayal of the whole person, defined by much more than their usefulness to the workforce?

  • The Undocumented Americans is fraught with anger and a visceral punk attitude that is a breath of fresh air when contrasted with the wide acceptence and loudness of white angst. Take a moment to reflect on the POC narratives of anger that you have acquainted yourself with (either personally, or within the media). How does anger manifest itself differently within the person? What is the spectrum of public reception depending on who is providing these narratives? How do the consequences differ?

  • Think, too, about the whitewashing of the cowboy narrative, despite having been born in Mexico to its black and brown forefathers. The cowboy has long represented a romanticized version of independence and adventure for white America – how has this narrative changed as it has shifted into the hands of the white man? What kinds of things have been omitted from the story?

  • Other historical U.S. events, such as 9/11 covered in Villacencio’s chapter Ground Zero, have been reduced to the impacts they have had on White Americans. How do the stories in this chapter that focus on undocumented workers mirror the poltical & governmental targeting of other marginalized groups such as South Asians and Middle Eastern groups living in the United States?

Media Recommendations

  • Solange’s A Seat at the Table

  • Jen Cloher’s Shoegazers

  • Joan Sebastian’s El Illegal

Articles & Video Essays

Additional Resources


Thanks for a great September meeting!

Keep an eye out for October BOTM and meeting updates ...

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