Synopses & Reviews
A powerful and moving account of four young women from Mexico who have lived most of their lives in the United States and attend the same high school. Two of them have legal documentation and two do not. Just Like Us is their story.
A stunning work of in-depth journalism in the tradition of Random Family, Helen Thorpe's Just Like Us takes us deep into an American subculture -- that of Mexican immigrants -- largely hidden from the mainstream. We meet four girls on the eve of their senior prom, in Denver, Colorado. Each is bright and ambitious and an excellent student. Their leader, Marisela, dazzles teachers during the day and spends her evenings checking groceries to help pay the bills. She dreams of college and a professional career -- but she doesn't have a green card or a Social Security number because her parents brought her across the border illegally.
Marisela's best friend, Yadira, shares her predicament. But they spend all of their time with two girls who are legal -- Elissa, who was born in the United States, and Clara, who has a green card. Each of the girls views the others as her equals, yet the world does not treat them that way.
Their situation becomes increasingly painful and complex as the four young women approach adulthood, and Marisela and Yadira watch their two legal friends gain opportunities that are not available to them. All four hold American aspirations, but only Clara and Elissa have the documents necessary to realize those hopes. Their friendship starts to divide along lines of immigration status.
Then a political firestorm begins. An illegal immigrant commits a horrendous crime in Denver, and a local congressman seizes on the act as proof of all that is wrong with American society. Arguments over immigration rage fiercely, and the girls' lives play out against a backdrop of intense debate over whether they have any right to live in the country where they have grown up.
This brilliant, fast-paced work of narrative journalism is a vivid coming-of-age story about girlhood, friendship, and, most of all, identity -- what it means to fake an identity, steal an identity, or inherit an identity from one's parents and country. No matter what one's opinions are about immigration, Just Like Us offers fascinating insight into one of our most complicated social issues today. The girls, their families, those who welcome them, and those who object to their presence all must grapple with the same deep dilemma: Who is an American? Who gets to live in America? And what happens when we don't agree?
"By the time Marisela, Yadira, Clara and Elissa four girls of Mexican descent from the suburbs of Denver entered their freshman year in high school, they were inseparable, but four years later, their fundamental difference threatened to divide them: Clara and Elissa were legal residents, but Marisela and Yadira had begun to suffer the repercussions of their parents' choice to illegally enter the U.S. Journalist Thorpe, married to Denver mayor John Hickenlooper, met them as the girls without legal status were finding their friends' liberties big and small to attend college, drive or even rent a movie unbearable. 'It was hard for Marisela and Yadira to see why they should labor over their homework if they were just going to end up working at McDonald's,' Thorpe writes. 'Marisela slid into trouble with ease, but Yadira found the experience profoundly disorienting.' With striking candor, Thorpe chronicles the girls' lives over four years, delineating the small but arresting differences that will separate them and shape their futures. She personalizes the ongoing debate over immigration and frames it so compassionately and sensibly that even the staunchest opponents of immigration liberalization might find themselves rethinking their positions. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
“Thorpe puts a human face on a frequently obtuse conversation, and in so doing takes us far beyond the political rhetoric." —O Magazine.
"An excellent, in-depth study of immigration policies gone amok." -- Library Journal
"Just Like Us beautifully and powerfully reminds us of the individuals whose lives lie at the center of the chaos that is our approach to immigration. Helen Thorpe has taken policy and turned it into literature." -- Malcolm Gladwell
"With a gaze that is tender and ever alert, Helen Thorpe follows the lives of four young women -- Mexican and American -- so alike in their coming-of-age, but separated by the ironies of geography, the border that cuts through the heart." -- Richard Rodriguez, author of Brown: The Last Discovery of America
"This is a penetrating, fair, and refreshingly personal examination of the passions that fuel the immigration controversy in this country. Helen Thorpe measures the arguments on both sides of this national debate against the actual human costs imposed by the status quo. This book will find a central place in this debate." -- Lawrence Wright, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11
"With a perfect combination of narrative and reflection, empathy and analysis, Helen Thorpe tells both a particular story of four irresistibly engaging young women, and a universal story of the struggle between human aspiration and intractable obstacles. If this book gets widely read, our national conversation on immigration could make a shift from 'shrill and draining' to 'thoughtful and productive.' In this book, the force and power of journalism reach their peak." -- Patricia Nelson Limerick, author of The Legacy of Conquest and Something in the Soil
"Just Like Us" offers a powerful account of four young Mexican women coming of age in Denver--two of whom have legal documentation, two of whom who don't--and the challenges they face as they attempt to pursue the American dream.
Written by a gifted journalist, a powerful account of four young Mexican women coming of age in Denver—two of whom have legal documentation, two of whom who don’t— and the challenges they face as they attempt to pursue the American dream.
Just Like Ustakes readers on a compelling journey with four young Mexican-American women who have lived in the U.S. since childhood. Exploring not only the women’s personal life stories, this book also delves deep into an American subculture and the complex and controversial politics that surround the issue of immigration.
The story opens on the eve of the girls’ senior prom in Denver, Colorado. All four of the girls have grown up in the United States, all four want to make it into college and succeed, but only two have immigration papers. Meanwhile, after a Mexican immigrant shoots and kills a local police officer, Colorado becomes the place where national argu- ments over immigration rage most fiercely. As the girls’ lives play out against this backdrop of intense debate over whether they have any right to live here, readers will gain remarkable insight into both the power players and the most vulnerable members of society as they grapple with understanding one of the most complicated social issues of our times.
Moving, timely, and passionately told, Just Like Us is a riv- eting story about girlhood, friendship, identity, and survival.
About the Author
Helen Thorpe was born in London and grew up in Medford, New Jersey. Her journalism has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, New York Magazine, and The Texas Observer. Thorpe has worked for Texas Monthly, The New York Observer, and The New Yorker, where she wrote "Talk of the Town" stories. She is married to John Hickenlooper, the mayor of Denver. Just Like Us is her first book.