As a former undocumented immigrant, and someone who speaks at schools and events about the immigrant experience, one of the questions I get most commonly is “How can I help?” It is one of my favorite questions.
First, you’re already doing it. Reading books about the immigration experience, and taking the time to find out more, means that you’re an empathetic and concerned person. Studies show that people who read fiction care more and understand the world around them. So keep doing that. Not only is reading fun. It’s also a way to grow as a human being.
Second, take the time in your own life to be as inclusive and caring as possible. That new kid at school? Talk to them. Understand other people. Try to listen to as many different viewpoints as possible. Stretch yourself.
If you’re looking for non-profits to which you can donate or with whom you can volunteer, there are many good ones. But, as always, do your own due diligence before you give. Sites like Charity Navigator can give you ratings and information about how much of your donation goes to help people vs. to the non-profit’s operational costs.
Non-profits who work to help immigrants:
And, as always, don’t forget to look right in your own area when looking for ways to help immigrants. I’ve taught ESL, served as co-chair of an immigrants’ rights organization that provided food and services for our local day laborer population, and volunteered to help new refugees… all just a few miles away from home. Chances are good there are great organizations right in your city or county that are already set up and are helping… and could use your help too. Google your town/county name and “immigrant rights organization” to see who is already doing the work… and join them.
Love in English is a book about finding one’s voice, about what it feels like to be new in the U.S. (as I once was) and how to navigate things like dating and friendships with that as a constant in the background. It covers issues of assimilation and language acquisitions, things I have personal experience with. It doesn’t take on issues best served by other writers, like the experiences of people of color, which I am not. Here’s a piece about why I didn’t address issues of machismo in Latinx culture with the character of Altagracia, Ana’s best friend. I’ll add more on themes and issues covered in Love in English as I write those posts. Check this space!
Love in English is a story near and dear to my heart. It is about Ana, who moves to the U.S. and doesn’t speak much English, just like I once didn’t. While she’s trying to learn the language and find her voice, she also meets two sweet and very different boys. Will they or won’t they? Read more here.
I do! Sometimes I update it all the time. Other times, like when I’m on deadline, not so much. You can find it here.
The announcement of my second book stirred up questions about my identity. I wrote a post to explain those. It is here.
It broke my heart when I started to do appearances to promote THE SECRET SIDE OF EMPTY and I began to get this question. Readers had really connected with the characters, and were worried for their future. It was flattering, but also a little sad. I never want to make anyone worry.
Insofar as M.T. was born from my own adolescent experiences with being undocumented, then I can tell you that for the person that inspired that character (me!), things worked out better than I could have ever imagined. There was such a beautifully happy ending (still in progress) for me and mine that I often have to stop and marvel at it.
But there are hundreds of thousands of children, teenagers and adults currently in the impossible situation that M.T. finds herself in, at least as of this writing. I keep hoping that one day SECRET SIDE will just be a story about how things used to be. Unfortunately, it’s still much too real for way too many.
If you’re moved to learn more about the plight of Dreamers, and see how you can help, there are many great organizations. Look for one where you are. I like United We Dream.
Nope! But I’d love to live in a town named Willow Falls… wouldn’t you? Willows and waterfalls, two of my favorite things.
The town is intended to be in suburban New Jersey, and it’s certainly like many towns around where I live. I wanted it to have a certain urban proximity, and since New York City is the city I grew up around, I picked that one. And I also wanted it to be a place where people of abundant means and people like M.T.’s family might mix, and that happens in this part of the country. There is something about growing up without a lot of financial security, but seeing people with way more than you have, that I wanted to look at in THE SECRET SIDE OF EMPTY.
Plus, well, I’m a Jersey girl.
That said, there are people having the same struggle that M.T. is having near you, guaranteed. And you may not even know it.
Ummm… kinda sorta, yeah. Many details changed to protect the innocent, but I had a wonderful first love, and he was a lot like Nate.
And that’s all I’m telling!
Meet the characters from THE SECRET SIDE OF EMPTY: click here.
I’ve been lucky to have great, lifelong friends in my life, so I definitely drew from those experiences to write a trusted, loyal, true friend. But Chelsea isn’t really like any of my friends, not my high school friends who saw me through a lot of the difficult experiences I share with M.T., and not my friends now. She was invented out of whole cloth. I do wish I had a friend like her, because she’s generous and sweet. I loved writing her.
Meet more of the characters from THE SECRET SIDE OF EMPTY. Click here.
They have their own page! Click here to see it.
Alas, no. I’m sorry if you have a paper due tomorrow. (I really mean that!). You can find out about the main characters and other things here.
But I’m told it’s a fast read. So if the paper is not due tomorrow, take a chance… you may be surprised how quickly you get through it. Which is sort of weird since it took me years to write it and get it published.
And, no, writing me will not make me send you secret Spark Notes. But I do love to hear from readers!
I wrote a piece about it. Click here to read it.
No! Well, not really. Not exactly.
It’s true that, like M.T., I was undocumented as a teenager. Some other details fit, too. But M.T. is a teenager now (you know… as far as fictional characters are anything “now”) and I was a teenager… not now. I took the kernel of the experiences – the emotions, fears, secrets – and put them into a completely fictional character in a thoroughly fictional world having a totally fictional experience.