Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen

Shared Reading Selection
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Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen
Jose Antonio Vargas
"Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen" cover

Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, called “the most famous undocumented immigrant in America,” tackles one of the defining issues of our time in this explosive and deeply personal call to arms.

“This is not a book about the politics of immigration. This book––at its core––is not about immigration at all. This book is about homelessness, not in a traditional sense, but in the unsettled, unmoored psychological state that undocumented immigrants like myself find ourselves in. This book is about lying and being forced to lie to get by; about passing as an American and as a contributing citizen; about families, keeping them together, and having to make new ones when you can’t. This book is about constantly hiding from the government and, in the process, hiding from ourselves. This book is about what it means to not have a home.

After 25 years of living illegally in a country that does not consider me one of its own, this book is the closest thing I have to freedom.”

—Jose Antonio Vargas, from Dear America

“This riveting, courageous memoir ought to be mandatory reading for every American.”  —Michelle Alexander, New York Times bestselling author of The New Jim Crow

“l cried reading this book, realizing more fully what my parents endured.” —Amy Tan, New York Times bestselling author of The Joy Luck Club and Where the Past Begins

“This book couldn’t be more timely and more necessary.” —Dave Eggers, New York Times bestselling author of What Is the What and The Monk of Mokha



 Vargas, Jose Antonio. Dear America : Notes of an Undocumented Citizen. HarperCollins Publishers, 2018.

About the Author

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 narrative change organization Define American, named one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company.

In 2020, Fortune named him one of its "40 under 40" most influential people in government and politics. His best-selling memoir, Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen, was published by HarperCollins in 2018. His second book, White Is Not a Country, will be published by Knopf in 2024.

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 worldwide with fellow undocumented immigrants as part of a follow-up cover story he wrote.

Jose Antonio Vargas — 2021

Jose 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. In 2019, he co-produced Heidi Schreck’s acclaimed Broadway play What the Constitution Means to Me, which was nominated for a Tony Award for "Best Play" and is streamable on Amazon Prime Video.

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 promoting equity in education for all students, he serves on the advisory board of TheDream.US, a scholarship fund for undocumented immigrant students; and, in 2022, California Governor Gavin Newsom appointed him to the Board of Trustees of California State University, the largest four-year public university system in the United States.

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 opened in his hometown of Mountain View, California in August 2019.

Biography retrieved from


"Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen": A Candid Conversation on Immigration 

The spring event, "Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen": A Candid Conversation on Immigration, took place on April 12 in the Parkway Ballroom of the Plemmons Student Union. Rather than a traditional book discussion, the book served as inspiration for sharing personal experiences as an immigrant to the United States, from the viewpoint of our panelists. Attendees listened in on a real-time conversation about immigration, by immigrants and gained insights to inform their own understanding on this important issue. 

Moderator: Carrie Afanador, Site Director & Department of Justice Accredited Representative, Immigrant Connection of the High Country


  • Yolanda Adams, Assistant Director for Student Leadership & Family Outreach, Appalachian State University 
  • Sonia de Dardon, Former Executive Director of Social Benefits, Guatemalan Institute of Social Security 
  • Rubi Escobar Jaramillo, Farmworker Health Coordinator, High Country Community Health
  • Edgar Straube, Staff Chaplain, Samaritain's Purse

 View photos of the event

Courageous Conversations Workplace Diversity Beyond Borders: Immigrant Narratives

The fall Courageous Conversations Workplace Diversity Beyond Borders: Immigrant Narratives panel discussion centered on immigrant experiences in the workplace. The panel discussion topic was inspired by this year's Walker College of Business Shared Reading Initiative selection, "Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen" by Jose Antonio Vargas.

Moderator: Sarah Donovan, Founding Member, Immigrant Mountaineers Movement;  Regional Director of Social Services, Southeast for Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)


  • Yolanda Adams, Family Resource Coordinator, Watauga County Schools, from Colombia

  • Marco Fonseca, Director of Coaching for the High Country Soccer Association, from Honduras

  • Andres Tellez, Professor of Applied Design, Appalachian State University, from Colombia

View photos of the event.

Past Event Recordings