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

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

Archive