Oct. 15, 2019

Each year, the university selects a Common Theme and a book that elaborates on that theme to spark campus conversation. This year, we joined that conversation by creating a staff book club to read Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas. A few folks across OIT reflect here on their takeaways. 

Laura Lucas sits with her copy of Dear America outside with trees behind her.

Laura Lucas, Learning Spaces Manager

"I appreciate how Dear America treats controversial issues with humanity and complexity. While the big question is citizenship — who does or does not 'belong' in this country — Vargas makes it clear that this goes beyond legal status. Race, culture, social class, sexual orientation and other aspects of his identity all intersect to shape how he is perceived and whether he is included or excluded throughout his life.

I think many of us can relate to at least part of his story, but Vargas challenges us to broaden our own perspectives and develop a more nuanced concept of 'belonging.'"

Johanna Jones, Product Owner

"Dear America was incredibly moving, as it draws to light the ways our immigration system works to take away the voices of its undocumented citizens. Vargas’ frustration at his situation is understandable, as he struggles to convey the ways he has become trapped in his status, with no clear path for relief. Personal stories are largely missing from our national conversation on immigration, and I hope this work succeeds in elevating the discourse."

Johanna Jones holds up her copy of Dear America in front of a bush with yellow flowers.
Jesse Plaza holds his copy of Dear America as he stands in front of some greenery.

Jesse Plaza, Projects Assistant

"The striking thing for me is how Vargas’ situation and marginalized status hasn’t just magically resolved itself with his newfound fame. He may occupy a greater place of privilege as a well-known writer and undocumented citizen, but there’s no fast track. No exception. No magical stamp that grants him citizenship simply by virtue of notoriety. Imagine the plight of those in his situation without that public profile and how they have suffered." 

Jessica Vargas, Instructional Designer

"Jose Antonio Vargas asks us to define what it means to be American in Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen. Reading this book reminded me of the importance of creating a true global citizenship initiative where everyone can belong. No human should ever be labeled 'illegal.'" 

Jessica Vargas smiles for the camera at an outside table.
Brant Christiansen leans against a tree with his copy of Dear America.

Brant Christiansen, Cybersecurity Analyst

"Jose Antonio Vargas' Dear America, Notes of an Undocumented Citizen should be a must-read by all Americans. We are not only a country founded by immigrants, we're a country defined by it. Vargas sheds light on the humanity behind our nation's struggle with a broken immigration system and brings light to the question, 'What does it mean to be an American?' I'm very pleased that our university community is reading this together." 

Jason Arellano, User Services Manager

"One of my biggest takeaways from this book is the importance of having a close group of friends, family and mentors. It is crucial to our success and livelihood that we have supportive and challenging people in our lives. These people provide a support system to express yourself and remove (even temporarily) the burdens you encounter." 

Jason Arellano reads Dear America at an outside table.