#BooksOpenBorders: Julissa Arce Q&A

Show young readers that anything is possible with this inspiring story from best-selling author, speaker, and social justice advocate Julissa Arce.

#BooksOpenBorders: Show young readers that anything is possible with this inspiring story from best-selling author, speaker, and social justice advocate Julissa Arce


Someone Like Me book cover 1. Immigration has become a controversial topic in the US. What message do you want to share with immigrants who are facing an increasingly hostile environment?

Julissa Arce: Immigration has always been a controversial topic in this country. However, immigrants are being demonized in a way that is new, and more harmful than I’ve seen in the twenty-four years I have lived in the U.S.

2. Tell us about your personal experience as an immigrant.

Julissa Arce: I was fourteen years old when my mom revealed to me that I was undocumented. I had been pestering her for months about going to Mexico to celebrate my quinceañera. After coming back from a business trip, I insisted, “Mom, when are we going to Mexico?” Her response shocked me. The tourist visa I used to come to America had expired, and I could no longer travel to Mexico. That night I cried. Not because I was undocumented, I was fourteen and I didn’t know the real weight of the term, but because I couldn’t have my fifteenth birthday party in Mexico with my family. However, it soon dawned on me that I had to learn to hide so that I wouldn’t be deported and separated from my family. I learned to blend in by learning English, becoming a cheerleader and mimicking my American classmates.

3. What message do you want to share with people who think they might not be touched by immigration?

Julissa Arce: Immigration tends to be viewed from a Latino-only lens, but the fact is that immigration policies affect all Americans. For example, black immigrants are deported at higher rates than other immigrants. The fastest growing immigrant population is Asians, not Latinos. We should all care about families being destroyed because immigrant rights are truly human rights. When children are being torn apart from their mothers at the border, or jailed with their fathers in “family detention centers,” it becomes a moral issue.

4. You bring a very positive spirit to what has come to feel like a terribly depressing situation. How do you continue to remain grateful?

Julissa Arce: Today, I am a U.S. citizen and like Spiderman’s uncle said, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Being a citizen gives me freedoms that felt like an impossible dream when I was undocumented. I can travel anywhere in the world, to Mexico to visit my family, and know that I will be able to come back home to the U.S. I can’t help but feel grateful for the opportunity I am afforded everyday—the daily chance to fight for freedom.
After I became a citizen, I got a tattoo on the inside of my left arm, and the way I sleep, it is the first thing I see in the morning, “Redeemed.” It reminds me that no matter how dark times might be, I am alive and I still have an opportunity to strive for a more inclusive and just America.

Author Julissa Arce
5. How did writing first your adult memoir and now this memoir for young readers affect you while you were in the process as opposed to now after having completed it?

Julissa Arce: Writing both books was incredibly therapeutic and also scary! As I recounted stories from my childhood, and adolescence, I was able work through hidden emotions, and that part of the process provided a lot of internal healing. However, the process of writing memoir is also frightening because I am not perfect, and my books reflect the range of emotions that human beings are capable of; love, anger, hate, happiness, jealousy, etc.

6. You're active in helping immigrants beyond your writing. What are you learning from being on the front lines of what has become a divisive issue?

Julissa Arce: I could write about the pain immigrant communities across the country are experiencing, but the most powerful lesson I have learned is about the power of human compassion. In the past year, immigrants have been persecuted at every level. Dreamers, young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S through no choice of their own, saw their temporary work permits be revoked. Temporary Protected Status (TPS) was terminated for immigrants from Haiti, and El Salvador. Most recently, children were torn apart from their parents and jailed at the border. These are just a few of the ways in which immigrants are being terrorized, but Americans have not been silent. en he was a little boy. Chef Marcus Samuelsson paying tribute to his grandmother with every dish he cooks.

7. What's next for you?

Julissa Arce: I have many books left to write! My first book, “My (Underground) American Dream” is being developed as a television series, and I am a producer on the show. I’ve had the incredible opportunity to work with an amazing writer to develop Julissa’s fictional world. I want to use every possible avenue to tell nuanced stories about all the people who call America home.

8. What does #BooksOpenBorders mean to you and how does your book help open hearts, minds, and borders?

Julissa Arce: Books, and the stories they tell, have transported me to parts of the world that I have never seen with my own two eyes, and yet I can close my eyes and walk the streets, eat the food, and smell the scents. I love books because they never require a passport to take me places. I don’t need to be documented to travel to entirely new universes and worlds that do not exists in real life, but that can feel as natural as the air I breathe. I hope my books transport readers into my world; the same United States they know but seen through the eyes of a young undocumented girl. My wish is that if readers are able to walk in my shoes they will grow in compassion and understanding for those of us that who were not lucky enough to be born Americans.

Enter for your chance to win a copy of Someone Like Me: How One Undocumented Girl Fought for Her American Dream. Official rules apply.

Book Details

Title: Someone Like Me: How One Undocumented Girl Fought for Her American Dream

Author: Julissa Arce

ISBN: 9780316481748

Publication Date: September 18, 2018

Price: $16.99

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