We Are Here to Stay: Voices of Undocumented Young Adults

By Susan Kuklin. Candlewick Press, 2019. 192 pages. $19.99/hardcover or eBook. Recommended for ages 14 and up.

This book is a collection of life stories of young adult undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Susan Kuklin, author and photographer, wrote that she had planned to share the full names and photographs of the nine young adults in the book, but as the book was going to press in 2017, the political maneuvering over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was such that the decision was made to protect the identity of the young people in the book. They are identified only by their first initial, which provides a helpful context of the current level of fear and apprehension for immigrants in the United States. Blank boxes in various chapters have replaced the intended photographs of the subjects. By doing this, they have compromised the potential compassion and empathy that often accompanies the human connection of seeing an individual’s picture.

Kuklin shares inspiring stories of young adults who are living in a time when their continued residence in the United States is in question. This book would be a good resource to help high school students unfamiliar with the struggle gain a better understanding of how current government policies and practices are influencing others in a similar situation. But most notably, the book shows a hopefulness and determination in those who weather the storm wrought by circumstances entirely beyond their actions or responsibility.

Many, but not all, of the individuals in the book left violent homelands to come to the United States. Some families came for economic and educational opportunities. All of the subjects in the book were children when they arrived in the United States. Some of the young adults in this book had parents who came first, and later sent for their children; while others traveled with their families. One young boy, a victim of a child trafficker, was forced to work, was not allowed to attend school, and was denied contact with his family back in Ghana.

As a child in a new country, each person’s story includes a period of adjustment to living in the United States. Going to school, while learning a new language and culture, was described by many as a challenging and humbling time. Some people missed their family and friends from home. Yet the stories also include how these individuals persevered, adapted, and flourished in the United States. Education and DACA were important aspects of their stories. This book provides a helpful insight into the plight, hopes, and accomplishments of immigrant young adults, who are working to make their lives successful, which by itself is inspiring.

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