Hannibal Free Public Library
Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen
Jose Antonio Vargas
May 17, 2021
2:30 – 4:00 p.m.
Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen is an account from Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who happens to be the most well-known undocumented immigrant in the United States. Born in the Philippines and brought to the U.S. illegally as a 12-year-old, Vargas went on to write for some of the most prestigious news organizations in the country while lying about where he came from and how he got here. After publicly admitting his undocumented status—risking his career and personal safety—Vargas has challenged the definition of what it means to be an American. Both a letter to and a window into Vargas’s America, Dear America is a transformative argument about migration and citizenship, and an intimate, searing exploration on what it means when the country you call your home doesn’t consider you one of its own.
1. Why do you think the author gave the book this particular title? Who is he addressing? What is the significance of the fingerprint on the front cover?
2. America once prided itself on being “a nation of immigrants.” Do you believe that America is (still) a nation of immigrants? Why or why not?
3. What does it mean to be an American? What makes an individual a citizen? Is Jose any less an American than those who are born here? Why or why not?
4. Jose opens Dear America with the words, “I do not know where I will be when you read this book.” What emotion did you experience when you read that sentence?
5. Why doesn’t Jose think of himself as an activist? Would you consider writing—perhaps even reading—Dear America as activism?
6. Jose explains that the book is not about immigration, but about homelessness. How does he separate the two? What makes a place a home for someone? What does it mean not to have a home? Do you think you could endure living in limbo—choosing not to put down roots, moving from place to place, fearing that you will be arrested?
7. What does it take to survive as an undocumented person in the U.S. today? How has living a lie and hiding shaped the person Jose is and the profession he chose to pursue? How did he pass to those who did not know his secret before he came out as undocumented?
8. Jose touches on race in the book. Why is race a charged issue for Americans? Why do many Americans feel the need to identify foremost by race? How do race, nationality, and immigration influence each other?
Adapted from: https://info.harpercollins.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Dear-America-RGG.pdf and https://joseantoniovargas.com/about/ and https://b0f646cfbd7462424f7a-f9758a43fb7c33cc8adda0fd36101899.ssl.cf2.rackcdn.com/teaching-guides/TG-9780062851352.pdf