In Undocumented: The Price of Admission acclaimed authors Reyna Grande, Jose Antonio Vargas, and Ingrid Rojas Contreras explore the unforeseen cost of the undocumented experience with Ernesto Portillo, Jr. This session of the 2019 Tucson Festival of Books was curated by Pima County Public Library’s Nuestras Raíces Program. Each author touches upon their own unique immigration to the United States and how that affects every facet of their lives.
Nuestras Raíces (‘Our Roots’) is a group of Pima County Public Library staff members who work together to celebrate and honor the culture, voice, and linguistic heritage of our Latinx and Spanish-speaking communities in Pima County. This is part 1 of a 2 part series. Recorded and produced by Amanda Shauger.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia. Her first novel Fruit of the Drunken Tree (Doubleday) is an Indie Next selection, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, and a New York Times editor’s choice. Her essays and short stories have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Buzzfeed, Nylon, and Guernica, among others. Rojas Contreras has received numerous awards and fellowships from Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, VONA, Hedgebrook, The Camargo Foundation, and the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture. She is the book columnist for KQED, the Bay Area’s NPR affiliate. She teaches writing at the University of San Francisco and works with immigrant high school students as part of a San Francisco Arts Commission initiative bringing writers into public schools. She is working on a family memoir about her grandfather, a curandero from Colombia who it was said had the power to move clouds.
Reyna Grande is the author of the bestselling memoir, The Distance Between Us, (Atria, 2012) where she writes about her life before and after illegally immigrating from Mexico to the United States. The much-anticipated sequel, A Dream Called Home (Atria), was released on October 2, 2018. Her other works include the novels, Across a Hundred Mountains, (Atria, 2006) and Dancing with Butterflies (Washington Square Press, 2009) which were published to critical acclaim. The Distance Between Us is also available as a young readers edition from Simon & Schuster’s Children’s Division–Aladdin. Her books have been adopted as the common read selection by schools, colleges, and cities across the country.
Reyna has received a Reyna is a proud member of the Macondo Writer’s Workshop founded by Sandra Cisneros, where she has also served as faculty. Currently, she teaches creative writing at writing conferences, travels across the country and abroad to give presentations about her books, and is at work on a novel set during the Mexican-American War.n American Book Award, the El Premio Aztlán Literary Award, and the International Latino Book Award. In 2012, she was a finalist for the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Awards, and in 2015 she was honored with a Luis Leal Award for Distinction in Chicano/Latino Literature. The young reader’s version of The Distance Between Us received a 2017 Honor Book Award for the Américas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature and a 2016 Eureka! Honor Awards from the California Reading Association, and an International Literacy Association Children’s Book Award 2017.
Born in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico (where 43 college students disappeared in 2014), Reyna was two years old when her father left for the U.S. to find work. Her mother followed her father north two years later, leaving Reyna and her siblings behind in Mexico. In 1985, when Reyna was nine, she left Iguala to make her own journey north. She entered the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant and later went on to become the first person in her family to graduate from college.
After attending Pasadena City College for two years, Reyna obtained a B.A. in creative writing and film & video from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She later received her M.F.A. in creative writing from Antioch University.
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. Most recently, he co-produced Heidi Schreck’s acclaimed Broadway play What the Constitution Means to Me, which was nominated for two 2019 Tony awards, including “Best Play.”
In 2011, the New York Times Magazine published a groundbreaking essay he wrote in which he revealed and chronicled his life in America as an undocumented immigrant. A year later, he appeared on the cover of TIME magazine worldwide with fellow undocumented immigrants as part of a follow-up cover story he wrote. He then produced and directed Documented, an autobiographical documentary feature film that aired on CNN and received a 2015 NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Documentary. Also in 2015, MTV aired White People, an Emmy-nominated television special he produced and directed on what it means to be young and white in a demographically changing America.
Among accolades he has received are the Freedom to Write Award from PEN Center USA and honorary degrees from Emerson College, Colby College, and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Passionate about the role of arts in society and promoting equity in education, he serves on the advisory board of TheDream.US, a scholarship fund for undocumented immigrant students.
A product of the San Francisco Bay Area, he is a proud graduate of San Francisco State University (’04), where he was named Alumnus of the Year in 2012, and Mountain View High School (’00). An elementary school named after Vargas will open in his hometown of Mountain View, California in fall 2019.