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  • NYS Writers Institute

Rebuilding the Republic: The Undocumented Americans

“I don’t want all of the images of our people during this period to be of us on our knees or in cages or begging for soap. I want this book to also exist as a snapshot of this period in time, where there are people who are different, who are imperfect, who are weird, who are hardworking, who are just people.

Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

For today's Rebuilding the Republic event, we present a conversation with Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, an immigrant from Ecuador and one of the first undocumented students at Harvard, is the author of The Undocumented Americans, a 2020 National Book Award finalist for Nonfiction. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in American Studies at Yale.

The book explores the varied experiences and rich personalities of undocumented people throughout the nation— the love, magic, heartbreak, insanity, and vulgarity that infuse their day-to-day lives. The Undocumented Americans was named a “Best Book of the Year” by the New York Times Book Review, Time magazine, NPR, Library Journal, Vulture and the New York Public Library.

“For all the political debate that surrounds them, it remains rare for undocumented Americans to share their own stories in full. In this nearly decade-long feat of reporting, Karla Cornejo Villavicencio’s book… shows the complex nature of undocumented immigrants’ lives.” — Time magazine.

Today's interviewer is Eric Macias, a Ph.D. Candidate in the Latin American, Caribbean, and Latina/o Studies Department at UAlbany, and a Fellow of the Immigration Initiative at Harvard University. His dissertation research focuses on undocumented youth who are pushed out of school, and their negotiation of belonging and inclusion.

The Undocumented Americans is available to order from the local, independent The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza:

This event is cosponsored by UAlbany’s Department of Latin American, Caribbean, and US Latino Studies (LACS).

For more information on the Rebuilding the Republic series, visit:


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