Undocumented Speak (Hopefully)

There a lot of different blogs, books, articles, poetry, etc that in some way or another speak about the experience of the twelve or thirteen or fifteen million undocumented people in the United States. A few that I have been reading lately got me thinking about projects that take different approaches to reach similar ends:

1) A DREAM Act Texas blog by a college professor at the University of Houston, Marie Theresa Hernández, and (occasionally) by young people who would qualify for residency under the Act.

2) The blog Unitedstatesean Notes by poet Javier Huerta. He started a new feature on the blog where each week he spotlights a poem having to do with undocumented immigrants. This is how he put it on the first day of the series:

My intent is to show that a long and rich tradition of "undocumented" poetry exists in these United States. I plan to post a poem dealing with/written from the undocumented experience every Monday.


I think the critical point in this description is the "dealing with/written from" paradox. For Javier, "undocumented" poetry is not only by the undocumented, it is also poetry that deals with the experience. The fact is that there is a lot more poetry by Chicanos or mexicanos in Mexico or gringos about "undocumentedness" than there is work being published by undocumented people. I recommend checking out the series with work by Monica Teresa Ortiz, Monica de la Torre, and Lucha Corpi.

3) And now I just found out that McSweeneys (the Dave Eggers explosion), through what seems to be an imprint or related project called Voice of Witness, is publishing a collection of testimonies from undocumented people of diverse nationalities living in the United States, Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives. It is edited by Peter Orner, who (I gathered from his introduction to the book) is an immigration defense attorney (or was at one time). The collection is founded on the principle that

We cannot begin to understand the situation facing undocumented people in this country unless we start listening to them directly.

So now the reason why I list these three is because each one of their projects does profoundly important work and finds creative ways to navigate the dynamics of solidarity. Each of them are trying to open eyes to the fact that undocumented immigrants are human beings -- writers, students, workers. In each case, the individual driving the project is not him/herself undocumented, though each one has their own story of how they came to the issue, whether through academic research, personal history or legal work. Each one has come to their own conclusions about how to navigate their insider/outsider position. I think each of these projects (whether electronic or print) gives us a lot to ponder: about solidarity, literature and voice. Worth checking out and thinking through.

3 comentarios:

Sehba Sarwar dijo...

thanks for these links, JP. i'm definitely adding them to my blog and will be checking regularly, s

MoNiCa dijo...

i've worked next to the undocumented and wondered why they dont speak more often and then remember that its so difficult to speak out when you are afraid. more people should recognize the contribution of undocumented immigrants, rather than denigrate them. they are us. they are not the other.

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