Words and Photographs by Susan Kuklin
Candlewick Press, January 8, 2019
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We Are Here to Stay features nine courageous young adults who have lived in the United States with a secret for much of their lives: they are not U.S. citizens. They came from Colombia, Mexico, Ghana, Independent Samoa, and Korea. They came seeking education, fleeing violence, and escaping poverty. All have heartbreaking and hopeful stories about leaving their homeland and starting a new life in America. And all are weary of living in the shadows.
We Are Here to Stay is a very different book than it was intended to be when originally slated for a 2017 release. It was originally illustrated with full-color portraits of the gorgeous participants. Since the last presidential election and the attempt to repeal DACA, my publisher and I felt that it was too risky for the contributors to be identified by photographs or by name. We stopped the press and held back the book. But the participants wanted their stories told. Their stories needed to be told. With their advice and consent, we revised the book by replacing their photographs with empty frames, and their names are represented by first initials. It is my dream that one day we can republish this book with the names and images in place.
I am honored to present these enlightening, honest, and brave accounts as a way to encourage an open, thoughtful, and reasonable conversation about the complexities of immigration–and the uncertain future of immigrants in America.
Read Susan’s blog post on Nerdy Book Club: Becoming a Writer With the Assistance of Family, Culture, Reading, and an Avocado
Read an interview with Susan on Worlds of Words.
Read the School Library Journal interview with Susan about the book.
“A chronicle of true stories of nine undocumented young adults who came to the U.S. in search of a better tomorrow, leaving behind violence, political unrest, and poverty. Basing her account on lengthy—often quoted—interviews, Kuklin (Beyond Magenta, 2014, etc.) does a brilliant job of transmitting the often upsetting, but always hopeful, stories of nine protagonists from Colombia, Mexico, Ghana, Independent Samoa, and South Korea who are living under the constant threat of deportation to their countries of birth, places many of them know nothing about. Readers cannot help but feel empathy for the individuals as they learn personal details of their lives. The young people are only identified by their initials with blank frames printed in lieu of the originally planned photographs, an editorial decision made after the Trump administration moved to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Kuklin walked two tightropes in writing this book, doing so with competence and skill. Her first tour de force was to succeed in writing about people, not politics, even though the latter plays a consequential, even a central, role in the lives of those she writes about, in the form of immigration policies. Kuklin’s mastery is also manifest in her ability to engender empathy and compassion without writing a tear-jerker; the painful experiences, often narrated in a raw and unembellished manner, while inspiring, are more conducive to a productive conversation on the complicated issues of immigration. A must-read. (timeline, endnotes, author’s note, resources, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18)”—Kirkus Reviews
[The] author’s note and the annotated endnotes are essential to understand why there are empty frames where photos would typically appear and to consider the more difficult aspects of DACA that will affect the fates of the book’s contributors. For those who understand Kuklin and her interviewees’ intent, the visual redactions are haunting, and the subjects’ cautious but pervasive optimism is a troubling counterpoint to readers’ knowledge that the American welcome mat has subsequently been pulled out from under their feet.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
Readers will see how immigration organizations are structured and, prior to the ’90s, how open U.S. borders were. In their accounts, these teens discuss how they are processing DACA’s uncertainty and how they identify with being American (or not). A time line on immigration policies and laws and helpful chapter notes are appended. A thought-provoking read on immigration in America.—Booklist
These empty pages are haunting, emphasizing the fear that the children live with, even as their stories address the importance of bringing their experiences out of hiding…We Are Here to Stay is an important book for anyone concerned about the issues surrounding undocumented immigrants. —Foreword Reviews
Websites of interest from the book:
The following websites are useful for undocumented youths and others who are seeking immigration information.
The ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project uses targeted impact litigation, advocacy, and public outreach to protect the rights and liberties of immigrants.
Atlas DIY offers a wide variety of services, such as free legal services, language classes, college preparation programs, scholarship lists, and more.
Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC) empowers undocumented young people in their pursuit of college, career and citizenship.
Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) serves as the leading organization for the protection of children who enter the U.S. immigration system alone and strives to ensure that no such child appears in immigration court without representation. They achieve fundamental fairness through high-quality legal representation and by advancing the child’s best interests, safety, and well-being.
The Lacy and Larkin Fund was created by Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, cofounders of Phoenix New Times and Village Voice Media. They have dedicated settlement money arising out of their illegal arrest by Sheriff Joe Arpaio (Maricopa County, Arizona) to fund migrant rights organizations throughout Arizona.
The National Immigration Law Center (NILC) is the primary advocacy organization in the United States dedicated to defending and advancing the rights and opportunities of low-income immigrants and their families.
No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes defines its mission as follows: “To end death and suffering in the Mexico-U.S. borderlands through civil initiative: people of conscience working opening and in community to uphold fundamental human rights.”
The Safe Passage Project addresses the unmet needs of immigrant children living in New York “by providing legal representation to empower each child to pursue a safe, stable future. We recruit, train, and mentor volunteer attorneys for unaccompanied minors in immigration court. Without us, many of these children would be unrepresented and unaware of paths to citizenship.”
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) maintains an excellent website for learning the most up-to-date immigration law.
United We Dream seeks to “address the inequities and obsticles faced by immigrant youth.”