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This unforgettable memoir from a prize-winning poet about growing up undocumented in the United States recounts the sorrows and joys of a family torn apart by draconian policies and chronicles one young man’s attempt to build a future in a nation that denies his existence. “You were not a ghost even though an entire country was scared of you. No one in this story was a ghos This unforgettable memoir from a prize-winning poet about growing up undocumented in the United States recounts the sorrows and joys of a family torn apart by draconian policies and chronicles one young man’s attempt to build a future in a nation that denies his existence. “You were not a ghost even though an entire country was scared of you. No one in this story was a ghost. This was not a story.” When Marcelo Hernandez Castillo was five years old and his family was preparing to cross the border between Mexico and the United States, he suffered temporary, stress-induced blindness. Castillo regained his vision, but quickly understood that he had to move into a threshold of invisibility before settling in California with his parents and siblings. Thus began a new life of hiding in plain sight and of paying extraordinarily careful attention at all times for fear of being truly seen. Before Castillo was one of the most celebrated poets of a generation, he was a boy who perfected his English in the hopes that he might never seem extraordinary. With beauty, grace, and honesty, Castillo recounts his and his family’s encounters with a system that treats them as criminals for seeking safe, ordinary lives. He writes of the Sunday afternoon when he opened the door to an ICE officer who had one hand on his holster, of the hours he spent making a fake social security card so that he could work to support his family, of his father’s deportation and the decade that he spent waiting to return to his wife and children only to be denied reentry, and of his mother’s heartbreaking decision to leave her children and grandchildren so that she could be reunited with her estranged husband and retire from a life of hard labor. Children of the Land distills the trauma of displacement, illuminates the human lives behind the headlines and serves as a stunning meditation on what it means to be a man and a citizen.


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This unforgettable memoir from a prize-winning poet about growing up undocumented in the United States recounts the sorrows and joys of a family torn apart by draconian policies and chronicles one young man’s attempt to build a future in a nation that denies his existence. “You were not a ghost even though an entire country was scared of you. No one in this story was a ghos This unforgettable memoir from a prize-winning poet about growing up undocumented in the United States recounts the sorrows and joys of a family torn apart by draconian policies and chronicles one young man’s attempt to build a future in a nation that denies his existence. “You were not a ghost even though an entire country was scared of you. No one in this story was a ghost. This was not a story.” When Marcelo Hernandez Castillo was five years old and his family was preparing to cross the border between Mexico and the United States, he suffered temporary, stress-induced blindness. Castillo regained his vision, but quickly understood that he had to move into a threshold of invisibility before settling in California with his parents and siblings. Thus began a new life of hiding in plain sight and of paying extraordinarily careful attention at all times for fear of being truly seen. Before Castillo was one of the most celebrated poets of a generation, he was a boy who perfected his English in the hopes that he might never seem extraordinary. With beauty, grace, and honesty, Castillo recounts his and his family’s encounters with a system that treats them as criminals for seeking safe, ordinary lives. He writes of the Sunday afternoon when he opened the door to an ICE officer who had one hand on his holster, of the hours he spent making a fake social security card so that he could work to support his family, of his father’s deportation and the decade that he spent waiting to return to his wife and children only to be denied reentry, and of his mother’s heartbreaking decision to leave her children and grandchildren so that she could be reunited with her estranged husband and retire from a life of hard labor. Children of the Land distills the trauma of displacement, illuminates the human lives behind the headlines and serves as a stunning meditation on what it means to be a man and a citizen.

30 review for Children of the Land

  1. 5 out of 5

    Karen (idleutopia_reads)

    A boy almost loses his life when a horse is startled, a man discovers he is bisexual long after marrying his high school sweetheart, a man wishes to wait a while before getting his papers because he is afraid that people will think he only married his love to fix his immigration status, a boy’s dream of being safe at home is shattered when ICE comes knocking at his door, a man discourses about loving a country that’s constantly pushing against you and hating that country for all its done to your A boy almost loses his life when a horse is startled, a man discovers he is bisexual long after marrying his high school sweetheart, a man wishes to wait a while before getting his papers because he is afraid that people will think he only married his love to fix his immigration status, a boy’s dream of being safe at home is shattered when ICE comes knocking at his door, a man discourses about loving a country that’s constantly pushing against you and hating that country for all its done to your family, a boy discovers his body, a boy loses his sight as soon as he crosses the border into the United States and so many other fragments come together to give us a nuanced perspective of the life of Marcelo Hernandez Castillo. If you want to put a face to the headlines then Marcelo Hernandez Castillo vivisects his entire life for your voyeurism. It is a consensual look at what this country does to people that are simply seeking a better life and opportunities that are not afforded in their home country. It isn’t a story, this is his real life. There is tons of trauma and relentless survival in a country that’s constantly treating you like a criminal. It is constant introspection about what it means to be othered, to be criminalized and the energy that’s expended to be invisible so that you have a chance to keep on living your life. Generational trauma, colorism, violence, questioning, guilt, domestic abuse, and toxic masculinity are just a few of the themes that Hernandez Castillo manages to dissect from his life, put into a pensieve and reflect back at how it has all affected his life, his actions and the journey that he has come through. In response to another review I saw, there is no healing in this book because there is not a moment of respite allowed to people that cross the border. How can there be healing when the wound is constantly reopened? This is the book that lets you know that no, the United States isn’t the good guy. The United States persecutes people, dehumanizes them and then makes it impossible to right a legal wrong in order to try to keep the life that you have already built. The trauma of displacement is thoroughly investigated in this book. It’s disorienting to realize that you’re unable to find yourself neither here nor there. Hernandez Castillo wastes no imagery, scenes or words because even if something seems random he pulls everything back together in such a brilliant way. You can tell that this man is a poet based on his prose. I am completely in awe of the pieces of himself that he shared with his reader. Please treat this memoir with the delicacy it deserves. He’s not trying to represent a mass of people but this is one life that you’re allowed to witness the trauma that comes when you cross the border.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Carmel Hanes

    "So much of my energy was spent trying to avoid getting caught...I feared deportation more than I feared ending my life." "I was trying to dissect the moment of my erasure." An insider's view of straddling the boundaries of two countries. Brought to the states as a child, growing up with an awareness of his precarious status, Castillo offers an eloquent view of how that no-man's-land messes with your identity, sense of safety, and family constellation. Raised by his mother after his father is depo "So much of my energy was spent trying to avoid getting caught...I feared deportation more than I feared ending my life." "I was trying to dissect the moment of my erasure." An insider's view of straddling the boundaries of two countries. Brought to the states as a child, growing up with an awareness of his precarious status, Castillo offers an eloquent view of how that no-man's-land messes with your identity, sense of safety, and family constellation. Raised by his mother after his father is deported, he struggles to do well in a world stacked against him. "I was negotiating a simultaneous absence and presence.": Forced to be visible to those he needed to be seen by, while remaining invisible to those who were poised to snatch him from everything familiar. I can only imagine the constant state of vigilance that must be maintained when one has to watch every word and deed as though it will be life-changing. Castillo's account of his own efforts to get legal citizenship, as well as those of both parents was heartbreaking. The roadblocks are many, the inconsistencies maddening, and the vast cavern of capriciousness allowed within the bureaucracy, despite written policies and laws, is enough to make even my blood boil. How can you love a country, or feel gratitude towards it, when you've been chipped away by it at every level? How can you allow the status of "legal" to cushion you into relaxing when others you care about can't obtain it? How do you shed the guilt that comes with good fortune? Castillo struggles with all these aspects in a narrative that moves between memories of growing up, family history, and the life-changing events related to seeking legal status for himself and loved ones. The narrative is done well, with moments of poignant beauty, such as when he describes returning his mother to Mexico. It takes concentration to follow the flow of the content, and to realize where we are in his story, which makes it a more difficult read than some. But it offers a clear view of what so many must live, and the impact it has on them.

  3. 4 out of 5

    BookNightOwl

    Highly recommend! Lyrically beautiful 💕

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ella

    I don't like writing reviews. I don't read books to have something to say about them (stole that from a book I read recently) but b/c I want to read them. However, this memoir has pushed me to consider trying to review a book. So I'm going to work on that this weekend. Meanwhile, if you want to read a book about people without documentation living in the US, THIS is THE book of 2020 to read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Paris (parisperusing)

    No rating at this time. I'm going to make room for this one later. My focus is waning — it's definitely not the story, which is beautifully-written; however, it is the size. Tomes scare me, but I'll revisit in time.

  6. 4 out of 5

    BookOfCinz

    Deeply moving memoir about what it is like to live in America undocumented. In Marcelo Hernandez Castillo’s Children of the Land he details his family crossing over from Mexico into the US undocumented. He gives an unflinching look into what life is like living in America undocumented. The Castillo family have been crossing the Mexican border since before the 1980s for work, and mostly to carve out a better life for themselves. When Marcelo was five his family decided to leave Mexico and hea Deeply moving memoir about what it is like to live in America undocumented. In Marcelo Hernandez Castillo’s Children of the Land he details his family crossing over from Mexico into the US undocumented. He gives an unflinching look into what life is like living in America undocumented. The Castillo family have been crossing the Mexican border since before the 1980s for work, and mostly to carve out a better life for themselves. When Marcelo was five his family decided to leave Mexico and head to the USA to make a live for themselves. Once they arrived in California, they went about trying to figure out to hide in plain sight. How do they get jobs, attend school, get health insurance, and live in a country where you need to be documented to receive access to basic needs? For most of Marcelo’s life he lived in fear of being picked up by ICE and being deported. If I had to put this book in one word it would be visceral. My entire heart was broken for what Marcelo, his family and especially Ama had to go through. It is clear Marcelo is a poet from the way he writes, he writes with just delicacy and honesty you have no choice but to feel for him on a deeper level. I have read and seen a lot of documentaries on what it is like living undocumented in the US but nothing could prepare me for this memoir. I think that is what made it so real- this was Marcelo’s experience; it was personal and deeply moving. I implore everyone to give this memoir a read, this is what I call essential reading. What I learned from reading this book: A victim without legal status in the USA can apply for the U Visa. The U Visa was a law that was enacted to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute serious crimes…. While offering protection to victims of such crimes without the immediate risk of being removed from the country”

  7. 4 out of 5

    Julia Kardon

    Marcelo Hernandez Castillo is a poet, and if you haven't read his poetry, you should also do that. But the unbelievable beauty of his verse is present here in his prose, as he lays bare the often Kafkaesque and humiliating experience of growing up in the United States undocumented. Also full of wit and joy, CHILDREN OF THE LAND is a must-read for anyone trying to process the immigrant experience in America.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Yesenia Juarez

    I wanted to love this book due to the subject at hand but aside from it being a little tinsy winsy bit poetic it is just way too long and dragged out in my opinion.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Alicia (A Kernel of Nonsense)

    “I ventured to believe that the function of the border wasn’t only to keep people out, at least that was not its long-term function. Its other purpose was to be visible, to be seen, to be carried into the imaginations of migrants deep into the interior of the country, in the interior of their minds. It was a spectacle meant to be witnessed by the world, and all of its death and violence was and continues to be a form of social control, the way that kings of the past needed to behead only one pet “I ventured to believe that the function of the border wasn’t only to keep people out, at least that was not its long-term function. Its other purpose was to be visible, to be seen, to be carried into the imaginations of migrants deep into the interior of the country, in the interior of their minds. It was a spectacle meant to be witnessed by the world, and all of its death and violence was and continues to be a form of social control, the way that kings of the past needed to behead only one petty thief in the public square to quell thousands more. The biggest threat to immigrants who succeeded in crossing was the fear that the apparatus was always watching you. It was the idea that was most menacing, that infiltrated every sector of a person’s life—total and complete surveillance. It was the unrelenting fear that was most abrasive on a person’s soul.” What I Liked: The writing – The excerpt above is just a small look at how powerful, imploring, and reflective Marcelo Hernandez Castillo’s memoir is. If I didn’t already know he was a poet, the lyrical language and the emotional depth of his words would have given him away. He is unguarded, laying himself bare to the reader. Sharing both external and internal struggles, Hernandez Castillo recounts crossing the border as a child, his contentious relationship with his father and the consequences of his subsequent deportation, growing up undocumented, forging a place for himself in a country that didn’t always feel like home, reconnecting with his father, and saying goodbye to his mother when options that would have allowed her to stay in the U.S. run out. Identity – As someone who lives on the outskirts of society Hernandez Castillo has spent his life grappling with his identity. Born in Mexico but raised in the US, but not a citizen, Hernandez Castillo has struggled to find his place. Conflicting questions arise: how do you give yourself wholly to a country that could kick you out at any moment? How can you belong to a country that you haven’t seen since you were a child, memories of which feel intangible? Parent-child relationships – Hernandez Castillo never had a good relationship with his father. He recounts how hard his father was on both his children and his wife. The target of his resentment toward America was often his children. Hernandez Castillo recalls the homophobic comments which would ring in his head years later when he was finally able to come to terms with his bisexuality. In contrast, Hernandez Castillo’s relationship with his mother was always one of affection. She worked hard to keep him and his siblings comfortable in a new country. Immigration and trauma – One of the most significant things this memoir does is consistently present immigration from the migrant’s perspective. Whether it is Hernandez Castillo as an undocumented immigrant in the U.S., his father being deported and then finally being eligible for reentry, the desperation felt by both him and his mother as they seek a way for her to stay, there is a degree of trauma that is rarely spoken of. Those who ask for help are forced to perform their trauma for a stranger in order to be granted assistance. It is a process that dehumanizes you and then turns around and demands you prove your humanity. Final Verdict: Marcelo Hernandez Castillo’s Children of the Land is an essential read for those looking for more insight into the lives of the undocumented. It’s honest and often heartbreaking, but also a fierce plea to see and listen to those who in this country who are forced to keep silent.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    I have mixed feelings about this book. A poet, Castillo's prose is broken into short story-like segments that jump back and forth between his childhood, his parent's narrative, and his recent experiences with illegal immigration, diaspora, citizenship, and dysfunctional family dynamics. There was a certain strength in this book, that I believe warrant the three stars, but first, what bothered me personally: While Castillo has some lovely prose throughout and likes to wax poetically in his memoirs I have mixed feelings about this book. A poet, Castillo's prose is broken into short story-like segments that jump back and forth between his childhood, his parent's narrative, and his recent experiences with illegal immigration, diaspora, citizenship, and dysfunctional family dynamics. There was a certain strength in this book, that I believe warrant the three stars, but first, what bothered me personally: While Castillo has some lovely prose throughout and likes to wax poetically in his memoirs, I also struggled to not roll my eyes at some of his philosophies, such as repeatedly ruminating on the abstract concept of constructed borders and the separations he has experienced all his life and how unknowable borders were while flying above them in an airplane, to then throw in a line about looking out the airplane window, noting the terrain, and knowing he had crossed into a different country. "Ach," you may scoff at me, "That's the beauty and irony of his prose." Perhaps. But when reading it, it didn't feel intentional, and I didn't get a similar feel from the rest of his prose, so it didn't work for me personally. My biggest struggle, probably, is that I felt like Castillo exists to be the victim. While his life has clearly been a struggle, and as an American, I fully acknowledge the incredibly shitty, dehumanizing, and unfair way in which this country handles undocumented citizens, Castillo also comes across to me as someone who would claim himself a victim of circumstance regardless of his situation. There are many instances, particularly in the beginning, where he emphasizes that everything has been done to him. Always, it is what has been done to him. Throughout the entire text, there is very little about what he has done to himself (alcoholism, attitude, etc). In terms of his undocumented status in America, he recounts many impressions of his lack of existence, but rarely gives solid examples of this. He mentions some details in passing about his navigation of society while living in such a tenuous state, but rarely delves into the actual details of if. He writes about his experience and America with a sort of hate, or at least resentment of its treatment of him, and I couldn't help but wonder why he was even staying in America in the first place. In thinking back, in all his snippets describing the journey of his parents into America as illegal immigrants, he never seems to acknowledge their role in his position. Entering illegally, the parents knowingly put their children in this position of existing-but-not-existing; it may have been to give them a chance at a better future, but it was still a decision of knowingly placing this burden on your children, by entering illegally. (In my understanding, theirs was not a decision based on need, more of desire.) While I don't condone America's current policies, it is also frustrating to read passages of victimization while only acknowledging the wrongs of one party responsible in a two-guilty-parties scenario; it is a complicated arrangement of guilt, moralities, etc., but this book felt very narrow in its treatment of the issue. This is not to say that I think immigrants should be treated poorly, or that their children should be put in such difficult positions, or that Castillo himself can't naturally side with his family and their position, but it all played into the mentality of victimhood that my opinion on Castillo and his narrative voice was a bit soured. If this book, as you may deduce from the above, isn't much about his actual personal experiences, what is it about? In reality, it's mostly about his complicated relationship with his father, before and after the father was deported and separated from the family for over a decade. Castillo's treatment of his father is as messy and complicated as his own feelings for him seems to be. His father, by Castillo's account, is not the best of men. He is an abusive narcissist, and his separation seems to be treated as both a tragedy and a blessing. This is another complicated aspect of Castillo's narrative: his is a story about a family "torn apart" by the deportation of his father. But there is very little addressed about this; it almost seems like the separation was the best thing for all involved, and his father seems to have been happy to be in Mexico, except for his restriction from seeing his wife or living with his wife. Again, though, the tragedy is minimized by the impression that that was the best for everyone. (He has several siblings, by the way, but you'd barely know it from the text.) Castillo repeatedly returns to describing his father and their complicated relationship. It really is the primary focus of the book. But it is neither Castillo nor his father that are truly what makes this book worth something; what does is the women in his life: his mother, and his wife. While Castillo's wife gets relatively little treatment aside from detailing her company on much of his journey trying to get citizenship and immigration rights dealt with for his parents, she is an obvious strength in the background, and I believe she deserves more credit that she is really given in his text. What really makes this memoir worth the read, though, is Castillo's mother. Castillo's mother is a complicated character but is ultimately one impossible to not root for. For all the time Castillo takes to leave poetic impressions on himself and his father and their complicated relationship with America, it is the impressions left of the women in his life that will stick with me long after the rest of the book has faded from memory. Thank you to Harper for providing an ARC for review purposes via a Goodreads giveaway.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Roof Beam Reader (Adam)

    Suggestion: Read this instead of American Dirt. Thoughts: https://roofbeamreader.com/2020/03/15... Suggestion: Read this instead of American Dirt. Thoughts: https://roofbeamreader.com/2020/03/15...

  12. 4 out of 5

    Carly Friedman

    A strong 3.5 stars. This was a heartbreaking, lyrical memoir about immigration, family, and self-discovery.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)

    I really enjoy longer works by poets - be they novels or memoirs or short stories, there’s something about a poet’s command of language and ability to make even a simple sentence carry immense beauty that I deeply admire. CHILDREN OF THE LAND by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo (@harperbooks) was exactly that - the structure (each part shared in these “movements” of sorts) and writing style worked so harmoniously together to convey the enormity of emotion shared in this intimate memoir. This speaks to I really enjoy longer works by poets - be they novels or memoirs or short stories, there’s something about a poet’s command of language and ability to make even a simple sentence carry immense beauty that I deeply admire. CHILDREN OF THE LAND by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo (@harperbooks) was exactly that - the structure (each part shared in these “movements” of sorts) and writing style worked so harmoniously together to convey the enormity of emotion shared in this intimate memoir. This speaks to identity and family in the face of displacement and crossing borders, and of the institutionalized inequities and heartbreak that the author and his family faced (and continue to) in their personal journey from Mexico to the United States. Highly recommend this one as an audiobook too, really well narrated by Tim Andres Pabon.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Gray

    Amazing, sad, and important. This tale of immigration and a family that simply wants a better life is hard to read in parts because it's true. No doubt we're all familiar with the broad outlines of the undocumented experience but Castillo has captured it in an way that will make you bend your head. That he wanted to be invisible, that his mother went back to Mexico to join his father after the latter was deported, that he has survived even though it has been a painful journey all add up to a boo Amazing, sad, and important. This tale of immigration and a family that simply wants a better life is hard to read in parts because it's true. No doubt we're all familiar with the broad outlines of the undocumented experience but Castillo has captured it in an way that will make you bend your head. That he wanted to be invisible, that his mother went back to Mexico to join his father after the latter was deported, that he has survived even though it has been a painful journey all add up to a book that hits hard. A poet, his prose style is lyrical even with the subject matter, Thanks to Edelweiss for the ARC. This likely will not get the wide readership it deserves but I'm going to recommend it to others.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jan Priddy

    I thank the publishers of this memoir for my "proof" copy. It is beautiful, painful, abstract—a memoir in lyric poetry expanded to fill the pages. I cannot read it all right now. I tried to do the math and discover the age of his mother at childbirth. She is two years younger than me. She had children in her forties. I read a hundred pages, skipped to the end and read that the author is "six months sober" and I stopped right there for a long time to consider. I think: come back to me when you ar I thank the publishers of this memoir for my "proof" copy. It is beautiful, painful, abstract—a memoir in lyric poetry expanded to fill the pages. I cannot read it all right now. I tried to do the math and discover the age of his mother at childbirth. She is two years younger than me. She had children in her forties. I read a hundred pages, skipped to the end and read that the author is "six months sober" and I stopped right there for a long time to consider. I think: come back to me when you are six years sober. Six months is not enough. It means he was drinking when his wife became pregnant. It means I had to step away. This is a memoir of struggle to find edges, connection, the place between, borders, separations and healing scars, the place where division is healed. He does not quite find it. He finds the means to continue searching. I honor that. What stopped me: The cover is the mode du jour—text filling the front and fighting with colorful pattern—it did not seem to fit. Especially at the beginning he says "I felt" too often, and without using the line purposefully. There is a great deal of reflection in random order, but this made me work too hard to piece his story together while also piecing together his ideas at the beginning. Poetry, but not narrative. This becomes more coherent later on, but it focuses on the years of breakage and not the healing. Healing is more interesting to me. It is far less glamorous, but I wanted more of the recovery story and I did not find it. I will return and finish this soon, I think. It is beautiful. Honest.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Leigh Kramer

    This was not always an easy read but I’m very glad I read it. Please heed the content warnings if you tend to be a sensitive reader, especially regarding child abuse and domestic violence. Children of the Land is an ownvoices account of growing up undocumented in the US. Marcelo was 5 when his parents and siblings crossed the US border from Tepechitlán, Mexico. He was 15 when his father was deported in 2003. After you’ve been deported, you can’t apply for a visa for 10 years. That’s a long time t This was not always an easy read but I’m very glad I read it. Please heed the content warnings if you tend to be a sensitive reader, especially regarding child abuse and domestic violence. Children of the Land is an ownvoices account of growing up undocumented in the US. Marcelo was 5 when his parents and siblings crossed the US border from Tepechitlán, Mexico. He was 15 when his father was deported in 2003. After you’ve been deported, you can’t apply for a visa for 10 years. That’s a long time to go without seeing your family. Ten years passed before they saw each other again and only then because Marcelo got a conditional visa through DACA so he could reenter the US afterward. His immigration interview was July 28, 2014 when he was 26, 21 years after he arrived, and he received his green card. But his mother was still undocumented and they exhausted all their efforts trying to get her a green card but it was not to be. In 2016, his mother returned to Mexico to be with his father but shortly thereafter, she applied for asylum after his dad was kidnapped. Anxiety permeates these pages. Anxiety about Marcelo’s immigration status and that of his family. Anxiety about his relationship with his dad, which is understandably fraught as his dad was abusive. Anxiety about his career as a poet. Anxiety about his place in the US and his relationship to Mexico. There are so many unknowns and at any point their lives could be—and were—upended. The bureaucracy they have to contend with, the sheer amount of time, money, and energy that goes into applying for a green card or asylum, the vulnerability of not having legal status making them targets…It takes a toll and he doesn’t always respond or react in healthy ways. But honestly, who can blame him? My heart really went out to him and his family. His siblings do not appear much on these pages and I’m not sure if that was out of respect to their wishes or if the burden really was on him for shepherding his parents through the immigration process. It’s quite a heavy load either way. I’m of the mindset that some life experiences need more distance before capturing them down in a memoir and this is true here. These are extremely timely issues and there’s a certain urgency, especially in centering ownvoices accounts. At the same time, the story meandered and was overly long in places or lacked clarity. It’s not told in a linear fashion, which could get confusing in places. Memoirs written by poets can have a great command of language or they can be pretentious and overwritten. This manages to be both, although it’s more the former than the latter. Had more years passed before he wrote about the more recent events, it would have made for a tighter narrative. Even so, this is a memoir well worth reading. I hope it opens eyes and leads to more compassion. Even more than that, it clearly illustrates how broken the immigration system is and why we must provide a better pathway toward citizenship. Let us heed these words. CW: father deported, mother with heart condition, racism (including anti-black sentiments, which are challenged), xenophobia, homophobia, anxiety, past stillbirth, past death of loved ones (stomach cancer), near-death experiences, brief reference to suicide statistics, domestic violence, child physical abuse, mother hit in head-on collision by drunk driver resulting in injuries, author was run over by a car in high school, alcoholism, kidnapping, circumstances requiring request for asylum, disordered eating, pregnancy and Caesarian delivery (very brief descriptions of both)

  17. 4 out of 5

    Zuri

    This is an amazing memoir! I had never heard of Marcelo Hernandez Castillo before reading this, but he is definitely a poet and I can not wait to read more. A memoir by a poet is basically my favorite genre of book so this did not disappoint. I listened to the audiobook (not read by the author). I learned so much abt the US immigration system and felt pretty much every emotion possible as I heard his story of coming to America undocumented, becoming a permanent resident and trying to keep his pa This is an amazing memoir! I had never heard of Marcelo Hernandez Castillo before reading this, but he is definitely a poet and I can not wait to read more. A memoir by a poet is basically my favorite genre of book so this did not disappoint. I listened to the audiobook (not read by the author). I learned so much abt the US immigration system and felt pretty much every emotion possible as I heard his story of coming to America undocumented, becoming a permanent resident and trying to keep his parents in America after his dad is deported and his mother leaves America to be with him a decade later. It was even suspenseful, slowly moving towards ICE decisions on his parents where I was listening like, please! Let them have this!! I’m not sure of the book layout bc I listened to it, but it moves back and forth through time periods and countries and moments. But the story is told in such a beautiful and poetic way, there were so many moments where I heard a beautiful simile and just said “come on!!!!” to myself. Wish I could’ve transcribed more but I’m really bad at it! Some below: I wanted to approach questions as I would approach a large body of water: as things in which I could drown, knowing how easy it was to drown, knowing exactly the limits and dimensions of my body, and what it would take to drown it. I felt glamorous but empty, like a pretty vase with nothing inside.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kyle Smith

    I already look forward to reading this again. Beautiful, important, and intriguing.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Gail

    If you want to read an authentic story of immigration, this memoir of a Mexican family’s experiences is the one for you. I would give it five stars, but I did not enjoy the way it was written, particularly the way it went back and forth in time.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I saw this on a "what to read instead of American Dirt" list, and I'm so glad I did. The writing was so well-crafted (poets writing prose is exactly my favorite thing) and I liked how he structured it. I appreciate the time he took with certain scenes, the lingering and thinking through.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tara Nichols

    I was thrilled when I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway as it was a highly anticipated book for me. Children of the Land is a beautifully written memoir about the experience of being an undocumented immigrant in the United States. This is a memoir full of loss, fear, and anxiety. And it is also a memoir that so poignantly shows the great lengths that a family will go to for each other.⁣ ⁣ If you have wanted to read some own voices or firsthand immigrant stories, this is a great one to add to y I was thrilled when I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway as it was a highly anticipated book for me. Children of the Land is a beautifully written memoir about the experience of being an undocumented immigrant in the United States. This is a memoir full of loss, fear, and anxiety. And it is also a memoir that so poignantly shows the great lengths that a family will go to for each other.⁣ ⁣ If you have wanted to read some own voices or firsthand immigrant stories, this is a great one to add to your list. It is difficult to read in parts, and it is full of very real trauma, but it is so important to really hear and listen to people’s experiences. This book allows us to sit and learn and to empathize. And that’s a gift.⁣

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jade

    There are passages in this book that pierced me right through the heart, because I relate to so many of the feelings, the pain, the confusion, and the searching that the author refers to. And oh gosh the prose is just stunning… Reading Children of the Land is holding a beating heart in your hands, traveling along the veins and the arteries, digging into the hidden murmurs that the author directs us to, understanding what it means to have to hold everything inside, one foot on either side of a bo There are passages in this book that pierced me right through the heart, because I relate to so many of the feelings, the pain, the confusion, and the searching that the author refers to. And oh gosh the prose is just stunning… Reading Children of the Land is holding a beating heart in your hands, traveling along the veins and the arteries, digging into the hidden murmurs that the author directs us to, understanding what it means to have to hold everything inside, one foot on either side of a border that you don’t remember even crossing. It’s a view into what it means to grow up undocumented in the US, knowing one country as your own, but never being allowed to really belong there. Marcelo Hernandez Castllo was brought to the US when he was 5 years old. His father was deported when he was 13, and it is only when he is granted a special permit thanks to his DACA status in 2013 that he is able to travel back to Mexico for the first time, to see his father and the country of his birth again. Children of the Land is the story of growing up undocumented, of a difficult, complicated relationship between father and son, of navigating an immigration system when you supposedly don’t exist, of navigating growing up in a country you call home but will never allow you to feel safe. It is also the story of a mother who does everything to ensure her children grow up safe and happy, and of the choices she has to make to do so. I loved how the story moves between past and present, vivid memory stories and personal thoughts, facts, and beautifully honest descriptions. This book is a work of art. There is so much of my life, and the lives of those love, that mirror a lot of what the author describes in his memoir, most of which I won’t detail in this essay, too personal and too long and some stories belong to my significant other more than me, so I felt every page, every sentence, every word profoundly. I can’t thank Marcelo Hernandez Castillo enough for pouring so much of himself into this memoir - It helped me in so many ways to read it, as I’m sure it has helped so many others. I have to admit that I read most of the book with tears in my eyes and/or actually bawling my eyes out, especially in the moments that I remember so well (green card interview, drinking/sobriety, saying goodbye to my mother and sister and not knowing when we would see each other again, knowing that my children will not have the relationships with their grandparents that I had with mine etc). I felt such a personal connection with the author and his words. I’m sure there are many people in this country who want to understand why people come here, who want to understand how convoluted and difficult their immigration system is, and also want to hear these stories from the people who have lived them. This is why we must, must showcase memoirs such as this one, read them, and talk about them. We are all human beings, multi-faceted, flawed, and beautiful, and we all deserve our voices to be heard, no matter where we are born, and where we end up.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kyra Johnson

    Children of the Land is a beautifully written memoir by poet Marcelo Hernandez Castillo where he recounts coming of age as an undocumented immigrant in America. ⁣ ⁣ Castillo’s family made the journey across the border from Mexico when he was five-years-old and rented a home in California. When Castillo was in high school, ICE agents came barging through his door, guns at the ready, looking for his father who was deported a few years prior. Castillo was shaped by these traumatic experiences. He str Children of the Land is a beautifully written memoir by poet Marcelo Hernandez Castillo where he recounts coming of age as an undocumented immigrant in America. ⁣ ⁣ Castillo’s family made the journey across the border from Mexico when he was five-years-old and rented a home in California. When Castillo was in high school, ICE agents came barging through his door, guns at the ready, looking for his father who was deported a few years prior. Castillo was shaped by these traumatic experiences. He strove to remain guarded and inconspicuous at all times and kept his burdens to himself. As a result, Castillo struggled deeply with his identity and sense of place. ⁣ ⁣ After a decade apart, Castillo visited his father in Mexico. He hoped to reclaim his lost sense of self within his Mexican roots but found it hard to connect after being displaced for so long. This is the true story of a young man who had to find his place and build a future in a country that condemned his very existence. This is the true story of a family that faced extreme upheaval, dehumanization and discrimination simply because they desired a better life. Castillo brilliantly captures the bravery and spirit of his family despite their hardships. Lest we forget, the American way of life is a history built by outsiders who pushed their way in. ⁣ ⁣ With lyrical prose, Castillo lays himself bare to showcase the human element of the modern-day immigrant experience in America. I highly recommend this memoir for anyone who is interested in reading an honest narrative about immigration and the problematic effects of the U.S. immigration policy. I cannot do this family’s experience justice—you need to read it for yourself.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    This memoir is stunning, and so sad. The ending gutted me. Castillo tells the story of his family's decades long journey through the American immigration system, but his story is so much more than that. It's a deeply human and honest portrayal of identity, metal illness, addiction, shame, sexuality, fear, and devotion. Castillo's search for meaning and a sense of belonging keeps him running his whole young adult life. When he is no longer literally being chased, he still can't stop running, but This memoir is stunning, and so sad. The ending gutted me. Castillo tells the story of his family's decades long journey through the American immigration system, but his story is so much more than that. It's a deeply human and honest portrayal of identity, metal illness, addiction, shame, sexuality, fear, and devotion. Castillo's search for meaning and a sense of belonging keeps him running his whole young adult life. When he is no longer literally being chased, he still can't stop running, but by then, he's only running from himself. Castillo is a poet and his writing is beautiful. I enjoyed the audiobook, but because of the structure, and the poetic language, I may have loved it even more in print, so I could savor the words on the page.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Neudy

    This book is an absolute must read for anyone wanting to understand the complexities of the immigrants experience in America. This memoir is beautiful, painful, and important. This is my first read by Marcelo, but straight from the jump you realize that he is a true poet. His prose is so beautiful & painful in a way that left me to deal with my own nostalgia all day long yesterday - seriously, that feeling is not something I have been able to shake since finishing this book. This coming of age m This book is an absolute must read for anyone wanting to understand the complexities of the immigrants experience in America. This memoir is beautiful, painful, and important. This is my first read by Marcelo, but straight from the jump you realize that he is a true poet. His prose is so beautiful & painful in a way that left me to deal with my own nostalgia all day long yesterday - seriously, that feeling is not something I have been able to shake since finishing this book. This coming of age memoir details major themes like family separation, migrant detention, and border politics. If this one isn’t on your radar yet, I highly recommend addicting it to your tar. This is one I’ll definitely be buying a hard copy of. I already look forward to reading this again. “I ventured to believe that the function of the border wasn’t only to keep people out, at least that was not its long term fiction. It’s other purpose was to be visible, to be seen, to be carried in the imaginations of migrants deep into the interior of the country, in the interior of their minds. It was a spectacle meant to be witnessed by the world, and all of its death and violence was and continues to be a form of social control...”

  26. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    The idea of the "other" was a Western invention. And so, in order to define itself, it needed to define what it was not. I was that idea of not. Beautiful and heartbreaking and important. Castillo lays himself bare for consumption, sharing his experiences and inner workings to inform our understanding of what it means to be an undocumented person in America. His truth, presented with skill and grace, humanizes the struggle of the all too often faceless "other", asking that we acknowledge the absu The idea of the "other" was a Western invention. And so, in order to define itself, it needed to define what it was not. I was that idea of not. Beautiful and heartbreaking and important. Castillo lays himself bare for consumption, sharing his experiences and inner workings to inform our understanding of what it means to be an undocumented person in America. His truth, presented with skill and grace, humanizes the struggle of the all too often faceless "other", asking that we acknowledge the absurdities of labeling a human, a person, illegal.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    " I didn't want to find a home. What I wanted was an origin, which was different than a home, to look and see if that origin had a shape, or if I could give it one... Up until that point I had only heard stories, legends, and myths of my family's past and what life was like on that mountain."

  28. 4 out of 5

    Miriam

    Both gorgeous and important.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mari

    Excellent, riveting, beautifully written.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    Castillo is a poet, so this memoir is well written, but the material never quite jelled for me.

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