Non-Fiction Book Review | “My Underground American Dream” by Julissa Arce

Posted Saturday, 12 November, 2016 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

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Acquired Book By: I am a new reviewer for Hachette Books and their imprints, I started by reviewing two releases by FaithWords, their INSPY (Inspirational Fiction) imprint of releases focusing on uplifting and spiritual stories which are a delight to read whilst engaging your mind in life affirming and heart-centered stories. I found Hachette via Edelweiss at the conclusion of [2015] and have been blessed to start reviewing for them.

I received a complimentary copy of “My Underground American Dream” direct from the publisher Center Street (an imprint of Hachette Book Group Inc.) in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Why I have wanted to read this memoir ever since I first heard about it:

I am growing more interested in reading human interest stories, memoirs and select biographies or autobiographies whilst I also find certain topics and subjects in Science are the ones I am enjoying the most to read and discover. When I first saw this release was upcoming this Autumn, I knew I wanted to read it because it was almost as if our current events and the news had converged on this release to bring to light an ongoing topic of narrative about something that affects so many people living in America today.

I had seen a documentary about Latinos living in California and part of the documentary shifted to reflect that some of the families on-camera were currently undocumented. I felt perhaps they should have been featured as I knew their status is always in jeopardy but also, they have so much they have to face everyday, why put their safety at risk by being in a documentary?  I never forgot that particular news feature I had seen within the past year. It was more about culture and art than it was about undocumented immigrants, but still, it had highlighted the issue to an level of insight where you could gather how difficult it was to live with a secret which could affect you so very dearly.

I wasn’t sure what I would find inside – as until I saw the release was pending, I honestly had not heard of Ms Arce’s story. I thought it was interesting how her status changed and how she found success in one of the hardest finance districts – there was an interesting story there awaiting my eyes – that much I knew for sure! It became one of my most anticipated #nextreads and one that I was thankful I had a chance to review for Center Street.

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Non-Fiction Book Review | “My Underground American Dream” by Julissa ArceMy Underground American Dream
Subtitle: My True Story as an Undocumented Immigrant who became a Wallstreet Executive

What does an undocumented immigrant look like? What kind of family must she come from? How could she get into this country? What is the true price she must pay to remain in the United States?

JULISSA ARCE knows firsthand that the most common, preconceived answers to those questions are sometimes far too simple-and often just plain wrong.

On the surface, Arce's story reads like a how-to manual for achieving the American dream: growing up in an apartment on the outskirts of San Antonio, she worked tirelessly, achieved academic excellence, and landed a coveted job on Wall Street, complete with a six-figure salary. The level of professional and financial success that she achieved was the very definition of the American dream. But in this brave new memoir, Arce digs deep to reveal the physical, financial, and emotional costs of the stunning secret that she, like many other high-achieving, successful individuals in the United States, had been forced to keep not only from her bosses, but even from her closest friends.

From the time she was brought to this country by her hardworking parents as a child, Arce-the scholarship winner, the honors college graduate, the young woman who climbed the ladder to become a vice president at Goldman Sachs-had secretly lived as an undocumented immigrant. In this surprising, at times heart-wrenching, but always inspirational personal story of struggle, grief, and ultimate redemption, Arce takes readers deep into the little-understood world of a generation of undocumented immigrants in the United States today- people who live next door, sit in your classrooms, work in the same office, and may very well be your boss. By opening up about the story of her successes, her heartbreaks, and her long-fought journey to emerge from the shadows and become an American citizen, Arce shows us the true cost of achieving the American dream-from the perspective of a woman who had to scale unseen and unimaginable walls to get there.

Places to find the book:

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ISBN: 9781455540242

on 13th September, 2016

Pages: 304

Published by: CenterStreet (@centerstreet)
an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc. (@HachetteBooks) via Hachette Nashville

Formats Available: Hardcover, Trade Paperback, Audiobook and Ebook

Converse via: #NonFiction + #CurrentEvents

About Julissa Arce

Julissa Arce Photo Credit: Vincent Remini

JULISSA ARCE is a writer, speaker, and social-justice advocate. She is the cofounder and chairman of the Ascend Educational Fund, a college scholarship and mentorship program that assists immigrant students, regardless of their immigration status, ethnicity, or national origin. Julissa is also a board member for the National Immigration Law Center and for College Spring. Prior to becoming an advocate, she built a successful career on Wall Street, working at Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch.

Photo Credit: Vincent Remini

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documented vs undocumented:

The life Ms Arce enjoyed before she realised she was undocumented was without constrictions and second-guessing her choices; although she did not have an easy upbringing, the fact she staid past her visa’s expiration date is what made her life increasingly difficult. She had to be careful around her friends at school from her freshman year (in high school) to college and eventually her career, because not to be cautious would have had a devastating end result. She would have been deported. What is interesting though is that it wasn’t her choice to ‘stay too long’ as that was a choice her parents made for her and without telling her that they were doing it. By the time she was catching on to what was happening it was too late.

The anxiety of living undocumented threads through Arce’s story – as everything she does has a self-check of conscious – where her faith was leaned on to get her through the trickier bits of everyday life and how through faith her adversities were graced by Hope. It is an incredible perspective of how not having documents to prove citizenship or permanent residence status can effect everything from driving, to going to school and applying for jobs. It’s a hard look at the strife and the incredible obstacle facing modern immigrants who came here without documents and how they continue to try to establish themselves in America.

One thing that stood out to me is how much they pay taxes – even without the proper documents, they are still contributing to America in ways I am not sure everyone is aware of as they promote job security and self-sufficiency. I do agree – there needs to be a better path for those who are already here to become citizens but also, not to be marginalised either – as Arce pointed out – when you’re a young child and move here, you’re choice to stay without the proper paperwork was decided by your parents. You should have a path you can take to commit to permanent residency as an adult or a child, truly, as Arce makes the case for different reasons where children of immigrant parents are not given that right today.

I was quite impressed with the back-story on how she was able to attend University in Texas (UT at Austin) and how her local senator and his staff were key to how the doors were opened for her to find a path towards her career by a new bill which allowed undocumented students to attend higher education. This mirrors what I am hearing from California in regards to undocumented immigrant rights and the paths in which some states are taking to make the adjustment to living here an easier one than it was in the past.

Each step of the way Arce recollects how she had to defy odds, battle anxiety and find a way to walk forward without regrets about what ‘could or could not happen’ if she was found out. Her road to changing her status, applying for a green card and citizenship is also revealled; none of which was easy and each step of the way she leaned on her faith evermore. Her guiding light of hope and grace were with her throughout her life, but even moreso when she went through the process of fixing her documents and starting anew on solid ground.

My Review of my underground american dream:

Ms Arce starts her memoir off with a realistic visual encompassing of what it was like for her to be undocumented and how despite her status in America, she still needed to find medical help; even if that put her in jeopardy of giving a response directed to the secret she had kept since she was a young teenager: she was not a documented immigrant. She quickly moves the story-line backwards into her childhood growing up in Mexico, where her parents were spilt between their time in her hometown (where all of her extended family and two sisters lived with her) and San Antonio. As she quickly progresses through her formative years, you gather a sense that there was a vacuum of distance enveloping young Julissa and her parents.

Their entire livelihood was hinged on their location in Texas but it also brought back commerce to their Mexican towne. The hardest part in her younger years was finding a way to resolve why she saw less of her parents whilst realising she was really left behind to live with her grandmother. Her sisters focused on education and starting their young lives at University whereas Julissa grew resentful and sour on how her life was fading away from the life she used to have as a family. The complications grew when her parents conceived her brother, as it firmed the choices her parents had to stay in Texas without going back and forth to Mexico as often or at all. You can understand how she felt abandoned and disconnected from them; but also, how she felt out of place in the family of now four children.

Her sisters and her had an upbringing that was non-typical of most Mexican children, as they had a family who could provide for them and give them things that were not as common to find as gifts in their childhood. In some ways, I think it might have separated her from her young peers whilst her opportunities grew out of what they could only hope to see or experience lateron when they were older. Julissa wasn’t the most empathetic child nor was she one to share – she was raised to be a self-starter and to be self-sufficiently working towards sustaining herself on her own laurels. She might have taken those lessons a bit too seriously as a child, but they became the foundational building blocks which developed her character as an adult.

The hardest part about reading Ms Arce’s story is how she had to live with an alcoholic father who abused (physically) herself and her mother. There were times where you wonder why her mother did not intervene more often or why she only intervened part of the time. Other moments you felt bad that she had to grow up in this kind of home life because she quite literally lived in fear of what would affect her father’s moods and when he would turn violent. The high standards in education and in life nearly broke her spirit, as Arce wasn’t immune to childhood bullies or the prejudicial comments classmates can say on your behalf. She grew up in parochial schools ahead of public high school – something that I think gave her better leverage to start being herself, rather than having to consistently deal with the bullies who gave her added stress to her already incredibly stressed life at home.

Her parents had their fair share of adversities – her mother’s silver and jewelry business was sabotaged by a family friend (who had been a trusted partner) setting the family back so far they had to think outside the box for a solution to work continuously without the worry of not being permanent residents. As her parents had to shift their focus from jewelry and the silver trade, so too, did Arce have to accept more and more responsibility. She struggled with trying to find a way to be a regular teenager and to carve out moments of freedom where she found individual joy in simply embracing a spontaneous moment which carved out memories she’d fondly look back upon even if she was risking something in order to live a bit more carefree in those moments of free choice.

Through dedicated hard work, Arce shows how her path led her to Wall Street and how she became a pivotal team member at the company she worked at for over six years before exiting to find her path outside that world. In her heart, she wanted to give back to others – something that had started to shine inside her heart as she moved through her own tribulations to gaining documentation as an immigrant who wanted to legally be a resident rather than to have to consistently worry about the ‘secret’ which was causing multiple issues for Arce.

One way stress can manifest itself in a negative way are crises in health and wellness – something that Arce also describes and openly admits happened to her but one of the resounding measures of strength and fortitude of faith is how she continued to believe that if she followed her instincts and her path, she’d come out alright on the other end. Numerous set-backs and adverse situations arose along the way – from her school years to her time in New York City, but Arce never stopped believing in what was possible. She dug into the hard bits with everything she had to give and truly dreamt of the tomorrow where her life would unwind itself from the long-term bottleneck of stress.

When Arce started to talk about her tattoos it felt like an eclipse of her journey – where peace had won out at last and where her spirit could relax. You truly felt as if you lived alongside Arce throughout her memoir, as she holds nothing back in order to tell the story of how she began her life in Mexico and how she fought to build her life in America. This is a fluid story of our modern era which talks about current events and critical topics in a way that lends itself to carrying the conversation forward and expand on finding solutions to help the immigrants of today’s generation.

The inspiring voice of julissa arce:

Ms Arce has a way of telling her story with a voice of strength – she doesn’t sugar coat her life’s story nor does she apologise for how it all played out. Nor should she – rather she explains how she saw her life develop through her own eyes at various ages of her growing years and adulthood. She poignantly remains raw and honest about the abuse of her father and critically points out how things could have been different but never were.

She shares her honest opinions and reflections – seeking to look past the memories of her life and to draw out new meaning or understanding as she too, is re-visiting her past as she wrote the memoir inasmuch as we are reading it for the first time. You can feel her angst and the emotions that came with realising her path in life was fraught with difficulties – some too great for her young shoulders to cope with understanding and others, seek to inspire others as she openly shares her own journey.

She inspires the reader simply by sharing her story and for changing the perspective on the topic of modern immigration. There is so much heart inside this story and her love for her father (combined with her forgiveness) is at the core of who she is as a woman. She didn’t have an easy path to walk, but she always found a way to turn lemons into lemonade, a trademark of her mothers’ of whom also had afflictions affect her as she endeavoured to give her children a better foundation in their lives to where they’d have more choices as adults.

Arce’s story is hard to read in some respects as it’s a critical exposition on how far we’ve stepped away from embracing new residents and immigrants alike; as our country was founded on immigrants who strived to have a better life for themselves and their children so long ago. It’s hard to imagine why this has changed but to watch Arce rise above her obstacles and find new hope through friendship and the kindness of strangers is what makes America a heart-warming place to reside. She shines a positive light on the situation but also, on those who are making a different in the lives of immigrants who need assistance and guidance on how to make the transition they dearly want to achieve.

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This book review is courtesy of:

Center Street

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I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!

Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst bloggers who gravitate towards the same stories to read. Bookish conversations are always welcome!

Anchoured to my reading of this memoir was the novel Vote for Remi which was equally imperative to read during #ElectionWeek 2016.

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{SOURCES: Cover art of “My Underground American Dream”, book synopsis, author photograph of Julissa Arce and author biography were all provided by the publisher Hachette Book Group Inc. via their Bloggers Portal and used with permission. Tweets were able to be embedded by the codes provided by Twitter. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Blog graphics created by Jorie in Canva: Book Review Banner using (Creative Commons Zero) Photography by Frank McKenna and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2016.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Saturday, 12 November, 2016 by jorielov in 21st Century, Balance of Faith whilst Living, Biographical Fiction & Non-Fiction, Blog Tour Host, Brothers and Sisters, Debut Author, Equality In Literature, Father-Daughter Relationships, Immigrant Stories, Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, Life in Another Country, Memoir, Modern Day, Multi-cultural Characters and/or Honest Representations of Ethnicity, Non-Fiction, Political Narrative & Modern Topics, Post-911 (11th September 2001), Siblings, Social Change, Tattoo Art & Design, Vignettes of Real Life

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