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First Pages: 2020-2021 First Pages Book

In collaboration with the Honors Program, these are library provided links to reviews, interviews, documents, and pertinent websites to support the freshman summer reading project.

Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen

We are pleased to announce the Fall 2020 First Pages book, Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen, by Jose Antonio Vargas.

When Jose was 12 years old, his mother brought him to Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport to travel to California in order to live with his maternal grandparents. Yet his mother never fulfilled her promise to join him and José’s adolescence in the United States would later be turned upside down by the shocking discovery that he was an undocumented immigrant.

Thus Jose began the harrowing journey of navigating his undocumented status in daily life, supported by a network of mentors and allies throughout his college and early career. His decision to publish his experiences as an undocumented immigrant in the New York Times Magazine profoundly changed his life, making him a national voice and advocate for immigration reform. Dear America is a compelling memoir, poignantly revealing the complex human realities about identity, belonging, and security.

Author Information

JJose Antonio Vargas_Headshotose Antonio Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and Tony-nominated producer. A leading voice for the human rights of immigrants, he founded the non-profit media and culture organization Define American, named one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company. His best-selling memoir, Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen, was published by HarperCollins in 2018. Most recently, he co-produced Heidi Schreck’s acclaimed Broadway play What the Constitution Means to Me, which was nominated for two 2019 Tony awards, including “Best Play.”

In 2011, The New York Times Magazine published a groundbreaking essay Jose wrote in which he revealed and chronicled his life in America as an undocumented immigrant. A year later, Jose appeared on the cover of TIME magazine worldwide with fellow undocumented immigrants as part of a follow-up cover story he wrote. He then produced and directed Documented, an autobiographical documentary feature film that aired on CNN and received a 2015 NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Documentary. Also in 2015, MTV aired White People, an Emmy-nominated television special Jose produced and directed on what it means to be young and white in a demographically-changing America.

Among accolades he has received are the Freedom to Write Award from PEN Center USA and honorary degrees from Colby College and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. In 2008, Jose received the 2008 Pulitzer Prize Passionate about the role of arts in society and promoting equity in education, he serves on the advisory board of TheDream.US, a scholarship fund for undocumented immigrant students. A product of the San Francisco Bay Area, he is a proud graduate of San Francisco State University (’04), where he was named Alumnus of the Year in 2012, and Mountain View High School (’00). An elementary school named after Vargas will open in his hometown of Mountain View, California in fall 2019.

The Book

How to Prepare

Preparation: 

  • Purchase the book from either the University bookstore or a variety of other resellers. 
  • Read the book. Think of concerns, questions, or comments that will contribute the conversation. 
  • Prepare for the author's presentation on Tuesday, September 8th, 2020, 7pm at Matthews Area (this is a mandatory event for all new students. Jose Antonio Vargas will be there to discuss his work and answer questions.  
  • Check out this guide to discover other resources and events. 

More Questions? Contact: 

For more information on library resources and questions about this guide contact Evie Cordell at e.cordell@northeastern.edu

For more information on the First Pages program contact Justin Silvestri at j.silvestri@northeastearn.edu