My Underground American Dream: My True Story as an Undocumented Immigrant Who Became a Wall Street Executive
By: Julissa Arce
Published by: Center Street (September, 2016)
ISBN:  978-1455540242

My Underground American Dream follows Julissa Arce from her carefree time as a well-cared for little girl in Taxco, Mexico to her struggles as an undocumented teen in San Antonio who eventually works her way up to the hallowed halls of Wall Street.

I won’t retell the story for you, but the events that transpire to get Julissa into the United States and then keep her there are at times wacky (there’s an instance with a Playboy magazine) and tragic (a terrible accident that nearly kills her mother). We ride the rollercoaster of successes with her as she learns English, gets scholarship after scholarship, while one-by-one her family returns to Mexico and she’s left behind for a “better life”. This isn’t a cautionary tale or a hard-luck story. Julissa wins, but she doesn’t come out on the other end of her trials with the immigrantion office, her family, her romances unscarred and while we’re supposed to be happy that she finds a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow she’s quick to let us know that there a lot of things that matter that money can’t buy.

I loved this book. It was a page-turner for me and hit all of my sweet spots. I identified with her commitment to her family, God and the need to find her purpose in a world where money seems to be the answer to everything. Once I got into the groove of it I felt energized by her tenacity and perseverance. I kept turning pages to soak up the next kernel of information that might help me achieve success in my own endeavors. Readers also get an up close and personal look at the very real toll that immigration policies have on real people. How do you survive without a bank account, a driver’s licence, or access to credit cards? How do you become a citizen if you really want to? What kinds of hoops are there? How expensive is it to get a chance to jump through them? She answers all of these questions and more.

This book is great for:

  • Anyone who is a sucker for inspirational stories
  • Those wanting to know more about the real people affected by immigration policy
  • High-school Juniors and Seniors wondering about how this whole college thing might work out
Discussion Questions:
  1. Julissa was under a tremendous amount of stress. Discuss the stressors that were self-imposed and those that weren’t?
  2. Why do you think Julissa was drawn to Robert? What do you think it was about that relationship that appealed to her at the time?
  3. Do you think Julissa really wanted to get married?
  4. Discuss the ways that each person exhibited a great commitment to family. Julissa, Her Father, Her Mother and Uncle Mike.
  5. In what ways did Julissa’s upbringing prepare her for the fast-paced life of a Wall-Street Executive?
  6. Discuss what changes you would make in immigration policy after reading her story.
If you like this try:

She alludes to the teachings in this book over and over and I’ve read it before, but it may be time to read it again.

Soundtrack:
This is a hard one, but I think I’m going to go old school for this one.
For the Love of Money by The O’Jays

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