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Answer Key Dear America: Letters Home From Vietnam Worksheet Answers – “I swallowed American culture before I learned how to chew it,” says José Antonio Vargas in his recently released memoir.
. Armed with two different public library cards, Vargas pored over newspapers, magazines, books, music, TV shows and movies that he hoped would teach him, then a 16-year-old who discovered he had been smuggled from the Philippines to the M . United States. how to “pass as american”
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Although Vargas lived in the Bay Area with false residency papers, his mission was to gain the cultural fluency of a citizen. Movies in particular made visible the vastness and diversity of America; they also gave him a basic lesson in how experiences and descriptions of a place can differ depending on who is telling the story. After watching four different movies set in New York, Vargas marvels. “How can Martin Scorsese’s New York be the same as Woody Allen’s New York, which is not the same as Spike Lee’s New York and Mike Nichols’ New York?” ?”
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Vargas’ keen attention to the forces of perspective heavily informs his book, which covers the last 25 years of the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist’s life.
Cover, “Not Legally Leaving”; and his 2013 film Documented. Notably, the book is Vargas’ first long-form work, which attempts to distinguish his private self from his public persona through the use of vignettes. Both a journalist and an activist who founded the nonprofit Define American, Vargas notes that he is often considered “America’s most famous undocumented immigrant.” In other words, he knows that his life story will never be fully read as his own; however, that doesn’t stop him from trying to tell that story through memoir, a genre that requires an extended introspection of the self.
, Vargas considers his tale to be “only … one in about 11 million in the United States.” This decision to move away from a single immigration story is consistent with how Vargas has previously approached the subject as a journalist. Although the memoir focuses on her story, it is divided into three parts named for three experiences she says all undocumented people share: “Lying,” “Passing,” and “Hiding.” The book seems to follow in the footsteps of Vargas’ literary idol, James Baldwin, who realized the role he could play in the civil rights movement after returning to the US from France.
“I didn’t think of myself as a publicist or a spokesperson, but I knew I could get a story across the editor’s desk,” Baldwin said in a 1984 interview.
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. “And once you realize you can do something, it would be hard to live with yourself if you didn’t.” Whether Vargas feels the depth of that responsibility to the larger community (as Baldwin describes) is perhaps unknown. But the choice to “do something” isn’t always up to one, as Vargas’ friend, who is undocumented, points out.
“In our movement, you come out for yourself, and you come out for other people.” This was especially true for Vargas in 2011 and the 35 other undocumented people who joined him for the historic June 2012 cover.
Summarizes the experiences the author has written about elsewhere, beginning with the morning when 12-year-old Vargas is awakened by his mother. He is rushed to the airport and flown to the US, where he is taken by family members who have settled in Northern California. Early chapters describe Vargas’ delight in eating Neapolitan ice cream for the first time, the development of American slang, and how he came to understand the US as a place of racial pluralism and hyphenated identities. He again describes how, when he applied for a driver’s license at age 16, he learned that his green card was fake, and that the fakes that had brought him into the country were now his burden. In a section about what prompted his decision to come out as gay to his high school classmates and his grandparents, Vargas explains how difficult it was to carry a secret.
The memorabilia format, however, allows for pockets of fresh detail, including a chapter on what it means to be Filipino; a group, Vargas writes, that seems to “fit everywhere and nowhere at all,” especially in the national immigration debate, which overwhelmingly focuses on the Latino community. In “Jose the Mexican and Jose the Filipino,” Vargas writes about California’s Proposition 187 in 1994 and how even then, “when ‘illegals’ were in the news … the focus was on Latinos and Hispanics, especially Mexicans.” And later, one of the classmates who asked Vargas about his green card notes: “I don’t think you have to worry about your green card…your name is Jose, but you look Asian.”
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Vargas’ candid prose invites readers new to her story as well as those who may be unfamiliar with the complexities of US immigration policy. The author covers the antecedents and consequences of several measures and laws, including the 1946 Abolition Act, Operation Gatekeeper, the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, and the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. The 1996 laws, Vargas notes, “made it easier to criminalize and deport all immigrants, documented and undocumented, and made it harder for undocumented immigrants like me to adjust our status and ‘become legal.’ From countless angles, the memoir shows why. It is nearly impossible for Vargas, and countless others, to “get in line” to become an American citizen. (As he emphatically points out several times, there is no such “line”).
Vargas’ attempt to answer all relevant questions, covering all possible bases, given the varied experiences and precarious status of the millions of people living undocumented in the US, is where the book gets tangled up. The memoir, as it turns into a reportage, loses Vargas in the crowd. His justifiable exhaustion at having to continually explain his and others’ predicaments to people across the political spectrum is palpable. At a late hour
For example, he expresses his frustration with some of his fiercest critics; other activists who openly told him he was too successful to be the media face of the immigrant rights movement. “I traded a passing life as an American and a US citizen so that I could work a life of constantly claiming my privilege so that I could exist in the world of progressive activists,” Vargas writes in the sobering passage.
For many readers like me who grew up undocumented and who have followed Vargas’ trajectory since her 2011 essay, seeing the precise ways in which her story differs from ours is the heart of the memoir. His America, as others have pointed out, is one unusual advantage; he was fortunate to attend a “relatively affluent school in a privileged community,” a community where people with connections, money, and access to lawyers protected and allowed him. to build a life for himself.
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Committed to letting go of the many lies she had to tell to protect her identity, Vargas says candidly:
About the doors opened before him. For example, in the chapter “White People” he explains how some friends helped him get a driver’s license. That identification allowed him to accept a summer internship, then a two-year internship, and then a job
— the newspaper where he earned his Pulitzer as part of the team that covered the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre. His is undocumented America, white-collar and white-collar spaces. In a striking segment about Megyn Kelly’s TV interview, Vargas notes how “as a group of people Kelly calls us ‘illegals,'” but “in person, to my face, she always refers to me as undocumented.”
“Memoirists should not exaggerate the worst aspects of their lives,” Mary Carr explains in an interview with The Paris Review. “You have to normalize the unbelievable.”
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He seeks to uncover the unvarnished truth about Vargas, which is that even he, with all his accomplishments, accolades and associations, is caught in the labyrinthine US immigration laws without recourse. After all, he was three months old to qualify for the limited protections provided by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a 2012 policy whose age limit essentially created a generational divide among undocumented people.
Vargas’ lack of temporary legal protection essentially led to his arrest in the summer of 2014 after a vigil in McAllen, Texas, welcoming Central American refugees. “I don’t know where I’ll be when you read this. book,” writes Vargas
The preface of “I don’t know when the government will serve my [Notice to Appear] and deport me from the country I consider my home.” At this point, the memoir inadvertently asks readers to reconsider the estimated 11 million undocumented people in America and wonder how many like Vargas may be being overlooked in the conversations surrounding the repeal of DACA and Deferred Action.