Plaza Voices: I'm Listening

The human voice is incredibly powerful. Many of us spend our days listening to music, audio books, radio stories, or podcasts that help us make sense of our experiences and understand the lives of others. These recent stories about immigration may offer a fresh perspective, a more detailed understanding, or reassurance that you are not alone. 

Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas: Pulitzer-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, narrating his own book, warns, "This is not a book about the politics of immigration." But of course it is, only in the most personal, human terms. Vargas's friendly, relatable memoir brings the national debate home, describing his family and friends, and his own experiences as a Filipino American who discovered, one day when he was 16, that he wasn't considered American after all.

The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantú: Like Vargas, Cantú has written a memoir that brings together immigration policy and personal history, and like Vargas, he reads the audio book himself. But his voice is something entirely different. Hypnotic and deceptively calm, his narrative weaves together lyrical description and philosophical reflection, sharp dialogue and social history. When it was over, I listened to it again.

This American Life was a pioneer of contemporary radio, covering just about every subject with a combination of investigative journalism and personal narrative. Two recent episodes on immigration are The Runaways, which talks about immigrants struggling with law enforcement and MS13 in Long Island, and Let Me Count the Ways, which details how changes to immigration policy are affecting both documented immigrants and refugees.

The American Civil Liberties Union produces a weekly podcast, At Liberty, that discusses current events from a civil rights and social justice perspective. Recent episodes on immigration include Family Separation Update: Searching for Parents in Guatemala and Since When is Every Immigrant a Criminal?

Radiolab's Border Trilogy covers life at the border from different perspectives--high school students, border patrol agents, anthropologists--to understand how people along the border experience immigration and its effects. 

And finally, a song: Pa'lante, by band Hurray for the Riff Raff, headed by singer-songwriter Alynda Segarra. Watch the short film by Kristian Mercado Figueroa, enjoy the Tiny Desk Concert, or check out their album The Navigator from the library. Puerto Ricans hold dual U.S./Puerto Rican citizenship, though 41% of people here don't know it. Segarra's song tells their story in a way that no one could ignore.

Some of these stories are heartwarming, some are heartbreaking, and many are both. But however they make you feel, they are guaranteed to make you think. What are some of your favorite stories about immigration? Please share with us in the comments!

Plazas are an open community space where immigrants from all over the world connect with people, information, and resources, building Denver’s global community. Come to practice a language, prepare for citizenship, pursue your goals, and create your future. Whatever you’re doing, we can help! Please see our web page for more information.

Written by Amma R. on September 26, 2018


Nicanor on September 27, 2018


These are great and I can't wait to check some out! Thanks Amanda!

Amanda S. on September 27, 2018


Thank you for all of these, Amanda. I definitely want to listen to both of those audio books.


Thank you so much for reading! I'm still listening to Dear America and it just gets more and more interesting.

Brittany T on September 27, 2018


These are some fantastic resources. Thanks so much, Amanda.