Shopping cart is empty.

Birchbark Blog

The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

Louise Erdrich - Wednesday, April 08, 2020

The Undocumented Americans. Early on in this brilliant, vivid, tender, furious work, Karla Cornejo Villavicencio tells the reader that she is crazy.  But I've not met a saner person on the page.  Brave, yes, outrageous and honest, yes, but far from crazy, although Villavicencio shows how being crazy is often the sane response of an undocumented person to life in the United States.

Villavicencio interviews undocumented workers who rushed toward the burning towers on 9/11, cleaned up afterward, ruining their health, people who saved other American lives during Hurricane Sandy.  In every crisis, including this pandemic, undocumented workers are on the front lines caring for the vulnerable, cleaning hospitals, delivering food, working hard in an array of punishing jobs that often put them in danger.  These jobs are essential.  Just look at recent newspaper headlines, "Don't Deport Health Care Workers", "Undocumented Farmworkers, Still Deportable, Are 'Essential'. 

I've dogeared half pages of this book, not only because the information is so vital, but because Villavicencio has remarkable descriptive gifts.  She describes her father's feet, "small and fat, like mine, so you can't tell they're swollen.  After a few years, my dad's feet would hurt so much that he walked like he was on hot coals . . . "  She talks about his life, measured in deliveries, "a raisin bagel with cream cheese and coffee with hazelnut creamer.  A blueberry muffin and black coffee; two cranberry scones . . ." There is Julieta, "a big woman with the cheerful, paranoid manner of a debutante with a secret."  And Theodoro, "a lonely, ancient man, but he says he is fifty-six.  He is a tree.  His mouth is curved downward, wrinkled set deep like bark grooves . . . our conversations feel like dark, hardened sap."

What can I say.  This book.  I read it in gulps, late at night.  I couldn't stop, because I was meeting so many funny, philosophical, courageous and intriguing people, Karla Cornejo Villavicencio included.  I hope you read this book! ( I would press it into your hands if I didn't have to stay 6 feet away from you.)


Canoe Family

Recent PostsRSS


Tags

Gail Caldwell Keepers of the Trees Up Late Again anniversary Zombies Pembina green gardens Jim Harrison World on the Edge Dartmouth adventure the most romantic city in the world china Native Arts Roberto Bolano S.C. Gwynne favorite book language revitalization book and dinner club favorite tree Mohamed's Ghosts Magers and Quinn Book Review ptsd Victory Gardens spring Chickadee Alice Munro germany Anishinabe Kabul peculiar touches of green and gold euphoria birchbark house series incarnation More Remarkable Trees bill mckibben The Resilient Gardener graphix Remarkable Trees monkey in a dryer health care reform Gryphon Press Our Knowledge Is Not Primitive The Wealth of Nature neighborhood Stephen Salisbury Bill Moyers Journal leaves and snow Wolf Hall cafe closing Too Loud A Solitude cafe buffalo Poetry Michael Jackson This Green World knowledge Keystone XL Wendy Makoons Geniusz Aza The Blue Sky italy 350.org Hilary Mantel Emily Johnson Patrick O'Brian post holiday Kate DiCamillo support tree books show your love north dakota Nero Crushing Books Anton Treuer Fireworks Wastepaper joy Interview Light in August thank you friends Women and Trees Easter Island Hillary Clinton The Porcupine Year aquifer Bohumil Hrabal mississippi Aubrey/Maturin Peak Water Rare Books japan 2666 Nemesis The Farmer's Daughter Alan Weisman Ha Jin Education Gary Clement Catalyst Brown Dog Philip Roth Makoons Let's Take the Long Way Home Vic Glover Empire of the Summer Moon Climate Change The Ojibwe fresh water Tree Houses William Trevor Minnesota friends The Birchbark House coyote President Obama Anishinabemowin local economy france Too Much Happiness Tar Sands E.L. Doctorow plants Kenwood Gardens ireland Dogs sweden Collective Denial Small Bookstores as Commons post holiday reads ependent Video National Book Award how good looking you are Czech Writer gratitude Keeping Heart on Pine Ridge Love NACDI:All My Relations Green Team The Transition Handbook Botany State Troopers thanks Ice School Gardens Bleak House Beth Dooley H2Oil Afghanistan The Game of Silence Louise solstice, Thomas King city of books Mankato Powwow Population Ojibwe British Navy Unnatural Disasters boarding school twins Birchbark Books devoted customers Native People Minneapolis Ojibwemowin Canada photography Greenland customers Islam The Royal Prussian Library Chitra Divakaruni Milkweed Press Peak Oil favorite dog trees pilgrims

Archive