Monday, October 17, 2016

My (Underground) American Dream: a book review

My (Underground) American Dream during a lunch break

My (Underground) American Dream: My True Story as an Undocumented Immigrant Who Became a Wall Street Executive
by Julissa Arce
Published by Center Street on September 13, 2016

This memoir about Arce’s experience as an undocumented immigrant from childhood through early adulthood was riveting. It begins with early childhood when she lived in Taxco, Mexico with extended family while her parents lived in San Antonio, Texas and traveled to trade shows to sell jewelry. They eventually brought her to the United States where she attended Catholic school and watched her parents work hard, then joined them in their work.

It continues through her high school experience at a public school and college then through her first job at Goldman Sachs, until she ultimately moves on to writing and activism. Somewhere in there (I won't tell you when), she becomes a legal U.S. citizen.

I picked up the ebook when I went in search of the authors who would be speaking at the Hachette Book Club Brunch next weekend. I am so glad I found this one. This was a powerful story.

Arce is open about her undocumented status, how it affected her every action, and what she had to do to be able to get through college. She is equally candid about her home life where her father sometimes beat her, her mother had a horrible work-related accident, and she pushed limits, as teens often do.

This is very much a coming-of-age story, as well as a story of perseverance and triumph. It gives the reader a clear picture of what life looks like when, through no fault of your own, you are an undocumented immigrant living in the United States.

Arce’s tenacity inspires me. Her life has been full of typical and not-so-typical trials and she was able to continue forward with a huge, looming unknown through all of it. She kept striving and working harder than anyone else to prove herself and make everything work out one way or another. That is the lesson I take away from this book.

My (Underground) American Dream is an engaging read. Definitely pick this one up. There will be something in it that inspires you to do and be your best, and it may allow you to see a different side of life in the United States than what you’re used to.

Also, as a side note, I read this one right after Behold the Dreamers (see my review), which is a novel about an immigrant from Cameroon who works for a Wall Street executive. These two books pair nicely together.

Disclaimer: I received an advanced reader copy of this ebook for free from the publisher Center Street and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. In addition, this post contains affiliate links. Please see my book review and affiliate disclaimer.


  1. […] Prior to the event, Hachette had mailed advanced reader copies of Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (on sale February 2017) to all of the attendees. My copy was delayed, so while I waited, I went in search of some of the other author’s books and was able to get a Kindle copy of My (Underground) American Dream by Julissa Arce, which I loved (see my review). […]

  2. […] that I read this month, and then I got to see Arce speak at the Hachette Book Club Brunch. Amazing! Read my full review. (received for free to […]