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“Before I could write any more stories, I had to investigate my life. To free myself–in fact, to face myself — I had to write my story.” —  Jose Antonio Vargas

Every year, Washtenaw County libraries and patrons gather to promote reading and civic dialogue through the shared experience of a common book.

For 2020, the selection is author Jose Antonio Vargas’s Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen. This moving memoir details the hardships that Vargas and over 11 million other undocumented immigrants face when trying to adapt to a new culture and status in the United States.

At the age of 12, Vargas was sent to America from the Philippines to live with his maternal grandparents. Immediately he was faced with the unsettling challenge of lying and hiding from the government, in fear of arrest and deportation. Common tasks such as applying for college or obtaining a driver’s license forced him to use fake papers. Vargas knew that without documentation, his opportunities were limited. To this day, he remains undocumented.

The author emphasizes that his memoir isn’t focused on the politics of immigration, but rather the longing of families to find a home. Through his story, he pledges to change the narrative of undocumented immigrants in American media. Find a copy of the book, including Young Reader editions, at any YDL location, or use our digital catalog to download the eBook or eAudiobook.


Jose Antonio Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and Tony-nominated producer. A leading voice for the human rights of immigrants, he founded the non-profit media and culture organization Define American, named one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company. His best-selling memoir, Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen, was published by HarperCollins in 2018. To learn more about Jose Antonio Vargas and his work, visit