Undocumented by Dan-el Padilla Peralta


Dan-el Padilla Peralta

Undocumented is a classic story of the triumph of the human spirit, chronicling a journey that will take you from a homeless shelter all the way to Princeton and beyond.

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An undocumented immigrant’s journey from a New York City homeless shelter to the top of his Princeton class

Dan-el Padilla Peralta has lived the American dream. As a boy, he came here legally with his family. Together they left Santo Domingo behind, but life in New York City was harder than they imagined. Their visas lapsed, and Dan-el’s father returned home. But Dan-el’s courageous mother was determined to make a better life for her bright sons.

Without papers, she faced tremendous obstacles. While Dan-el was only in grade school, the family joined the ranks of the city’s homeless. Dan-el, his mother, and brother lived in a downtown shelter where Dan-el’s only refuge was the meager library. There he met Jeff, a young volunteer from a wealthy family. Jeff was immediately struck by Dan-el’s passion for books and learning. With Jeff’s help, Dan-el was accepted on scholarship to Collegiate, the oldest private school in the country.

There, Dan-el thrived. Throughout his youth, Dan-el navigated these two worlds: the rough streets of East Harlem, where he lived with his brother and his mother and tried to make friends, and the ultra-elite halls of a Manhattan private school, where he could immerse himself in a world of books and where he soon rose to the top of his class.

From Collegiate, Dan-el went to Princeton, where he thrived, and where he made the momentous decision to come out as an undocumented student in a Wall Street Journal profile a few months before he gave the salutatorian’s traditional address in Latin at his commencement.

Undocumented is a classic story of the triumph of the human spirit. It also is the perfect cri de coeur for the debate on comprehensive immigration reform.

Praise for Undocumented

“Dan-el Padilla Peralta’s story is as compulsively readable as a novel, an all-American tall tale that just happens to be true. From homeless shelter to Princeton, Oxford, and Stanford, through the grace not only of his own hard work but his mother’s discipline and care, he documents the America we should still aspire to be.” —Dr. Anne-Marie Slaughter, President of the New America Foundation

Advance Galley Reviews

I loved this story. I was cheering for Dan-el through every page. I hope his story will bring about change for immigrants who are reaching for the American dream.

Thank you to First to Read for access to the advance reader galley! I enjoyed this book as something of a rags to riches story as well as showing the power of reading and schooling. My ideas on immigration are vastly different, but reading the firsthand account was an interesting experience.

I received an advance copy of this book through the First to Read program. Dan-el's story is compelling and inspiring. I can only hope that his words open some previously closed minds with regards to immigration. I look forward to reading more from him.

This is a captivating true story, that proves oftentimes, truth is stranger than fiction. You get sucked into this story and feel like you are going along and struggling with Dan-el. Even if not every immigrant, or hard-luck American-born student, goes to Princeton, Oxford, and Stanford, this story shows that you should always keep striving because you never know what will happen if you don't try.

This is an amazing story. An immigrant without papers when he's four, Dan-el tells the story of his upbringing. He is on the wrong side of some unjust laws. His is on the right side of some incredible luck. Others help him to be the success he is. And he is smart and works hard, making those people's efforts both effective and worth while. It's a great story and I recommend it widely. It's a good read and not preachy. He tells the full story of a full life, although he is understandably frustrated by the extra layer of anxiety constantly surrounding him regarding his immigration status. There seems to be, more or less, a happy ending here. But we all need to think about what this story means. It's remarkable because it's so unusual. He beat the odds, but the odds are still bad. Individual actions are so important, as evidenced by his experience. But couldn't we do better as a society? I'm glad his story is out there. Not many are in the position to share stories like his. I hope it helps to educate us as a people and that we can do something about it.

“But I would rather run after the impossible than live as a string of labels: undocumented, hoodrat, Dominican, classicist. I am all of those things; no one or two of them define me.” I was gifted this book through the Penguin First to Read program for an honest review. This is not the typical book I choose to read, but I felt it was timely with all of the talk about immigration reform and now with the Donald denigrating immigrants to such a low level, I couldn’t resist reading this book. Dan-el Padilla Peralta is a young man from the Dominican Republic who came to America fresh out of kindergarten and whose mother decided she wanted her boys to grow up and be educated in America. She made the choice to not return and so they lived as undocumented aliens except for Dan-el’s younger brother Yando who was born in America. Dan-el was an exceptionally smart young man. He was able to get a full scholarship first to a Prep school called Collegiate, (JFK Jr. attended also) and then he went on to Princeton and Oxford and now Stanford. His story of a double life was heartrending at times and the stress he lived under and still was able to achieve everything he has is remarkable. Dan-el Padilla Peralta tells his story honestly and it made me realize what a tragedy was averted because he was able to stay in this country to achieve so much. We truly need immigration reform and help these children of immigrants realize the American Dream that our grandparents were able to attain. People who say Dan-el is an exception to the rule miss the issue in this book that everyone should have the chance to live in America and contribute. That is what makes our country so great. Let’s not lose that message that we have always stressed. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Emma Lazarus

This book is a well-written and penetrating look at the problems and perils of being an undocumented immigrant in America. Dan-el, through his boundless curiosity and love of reading, overcomes many obstacles. With the help and tenacity of his mother and many other people along the way he's able to attend good schools through high school and goes on to Princeton, Oxford, and Stanford. This is an inspiring read and especially important given how some people feel about immigration! I wish Dan-el and his family all the best and admire them for their courage and hard work, amongst other things! Our nation needs to show more compassion and give credit for all the positive contributions immigrants have made to this country! We need to remember that with the exception of the Native Americans we are all immigrants or descendants of immigrants!

What an amazing story! This is an "American Dream" story everyone should read. He shows us the America that we all know it can be and how through hard work and faith in the America his and his mother's dreams became reality. It was an honor to read Peralta's story.

I loved this book! Always uplifting to see people make their way through life and overcome obstacles we think we would never be able to accomplish. Dan-el is a reminder that if you love something, nothing can hold you back from succeeding.

This book started off as a seemingly simple story but developed into a captivating story about Dan-el. It is written in a very accessible way and outlines an interesting life.

Dan-el Padilla's Undocumented is an excellent book. Its the series of events that he experienced from being homeless immigrant to a successful man that he is today. It is a good book.

A wonderful book describing the difficulties and hardships that the immigrants have to face when they enter a new country. It is not fair that people who wish to migrate to a developed country always have to face these kind of situations and sometimes even worse. Read the book to experience their hardships and how people survive due to hard work and determination.

Dan-el Padilla Peralta's story is a well written account of his life from homeless shelter through college.With the help of his mother and his determination he succeeds in his dreams. While well written, the use of the street language may be offensive to some readers. It does however show what it takes to overcome obstacles in your life and become a better person. His story does bring to light what people who are coming to this country encounter. I am not sure if his story accounts for what happens to most undocumented people since he seemed to have a great support system and valuable help along the way that I don't believe many encounter.

I would say Undocumented is a great book for motivation. It was wonderful page turner. Books like these are a great source of motivation because they teach that hard work and determination lead to success. I loved this book and I would recommend this book to all.

This review will be published on my book blog (http://girlwithabookblog.wordpress.com) and GoodReads on June 20, 2015. Undocumented is a fantastic memoir that depicts one person’s journey as an undocumented person living in America. When Dan-El Padilla Peralta is a young child, he moved to New York from the Dominican Republic with his family. His family didn’t acquire US citizen documentation and soon their travel papers expired and he and his mother were eventually living in America illegally. Dan-El beautifully articulates the struggles that he encounters because he doesn’t have documentation – his mother isn’t able to legally work so they had to move into a shelter when Dan-El is young and move frequently until they are able to find a more stable home thanks to public housing; he isn’t able to “officially” work (on paper at least) when he is offered a mentorship job when he’s in high school; he has no idea how to apply to college and if he will even be allowed to attend; and more struggles that are too numerous to list (and would also spoil some of his life story if I included them here). It is so, so important that stories like Padilla Peralta’s are captured and made available to the public. Moving to the US and overstaying your initial papers and eventually living in America illegally is more common than a lot of people think. You may even have someone in your life who is undocumented and you have no idea. With Padilla Peralta’s story of his life, he’s able to share his experience with those who may not be aware of the realities that face being undocumented in the US, and also provide comfort to others who have lived those experiences. I talked about this book with my friend who was undocumented for most of his youth and he said that it would have been incredibly reassuring to know a book like Undocumented existed because for a long time, he didn’t know anyone else outside of his family who was undocumented. He told me that if he had been able to read about someone who shared his experience in some way, he wouldn’t have felt so isolated about his status and his situation. That said, Padilla Peralta is quick to remind readers that he doesn’t have the answers for someone in similar situations to him. He was able to acquire a lot of well-placed connections and a valuable support system based on his specific circumstances, which may not be widely available to everyone. His book isn’t about teaching others specifically how to navigate their own situation, but purely serves to detail his own life experiences. After the acknowledgments section of the book, there is a glossary of Spanish terms used throughout the text. Since I had an e-galley of this book, I didn’t notice this until I had finished reading. There are hardly ever full sentences in Spanish within the book, and most of the Spanish terms are sprinkled into the text occasionally in a way that isn't distracting if you don't know Spanish. Thus, a glossary wasn’t necessary to me, but some could find it helpful. The only thing I would have changed about the memoir is the epilogue – it felt awkward to read and seemed as if it was hastily strung together. It’s very vague about how many years had lapsed between the epilogue and the last chapter of the book and if there had been any development with one of the major plot lines of the book. I also wish there had been a greater call to action at the end of the book; Padilla Peralta speaks extensively about the DREAM Act and I felt like the epilogue could have included a request for readers to contact their local representatives about this bill or listed activism groups that they could either directly be involved with or contribute to if they desired. However, if you couldn’t tell from the rest of this glowing review, I definitely recommend reading this book. It’s well written and represents a perspective that I haven’t read before. If you’ve read books that cover similar territory, please recommend them to me! Disclaimer: I was provided with an Advance Reader Copy of this book for free from the Penguin First to Read program. All opinions expressed in the following review are my own and have not been influenced by Penguin.

(I got this book free from FirstToRead.com) Loved it. Dan-el has a great writing style that's both personable and honest - even about his own flaws. He's open about the incredible luck he's had as well as the hard work he had to put in to go even farther. He struggles with being enough in every facet of his life and watching him move through those to become a man is fascinating. This isn't just a book about immigration, it's a book about love of knowledge and trying to be yourself when yourself is between many different worlds.

This book was a quick read for me. I received an advance copy from the First to Read program, and am glad that I read it. I do have to admit that before I read this, I was much less sympathetic to the plight of the countless numbers of undocumented children in the U.S. Dan-el is definitely an outlier in the group, as he is exceptionally smart and had people early in his life who recognized that and went out of their way to help him. I recommend this book to anyone who hasn't learned much about illegal immigration and how it affects the children of the people who come legally and decide to stay illegally. I hope that this book can help the DREAM act to move forward.

I have alway loved non-fiction because I love hearing about the experience of people who have had very different lives as me. I enjoyed this book because it gave a good insight on the life of an immigrant family and the struggles they can face. The book was well and simply written which made it easy to read. The struggles and triumphs of Dan-el was inspiring. It really shows how almost anything can happen with a lot of effort and that the American Dream is achievable afterall. It felt a little long at times with all of the anecdotes but I think they were necessary to give us a good accurate overview of the family's experience arriving to a new country. People tend to feel very negatively towards undocumented immigrants but after reading this I feel as though they have really earned their place here. It was overall a good read.

Loved it and I excited to read more from the author

this is one of my favorite kind of books, memoir and how the people achieved things even with adverse culture and adverse circumstances around them! being accepted into a great school to achieve things is amazing when he decides to go to prep school and college. this shows no matter where you grow up or the circumstances that surround you, you can make a difference if you make the right choices. Overall I will share this book with friends that it is a great read!

I loved Undocumented. It was a beautiful memoir, emphasizing the difference between the worlds that Dan-el lived in, and the world he learned in. Many autobiographies about hardship go for gold in the suffering Olympics, but Dan-el does no such thing. He never looks down on his neighborhood friends or his family for the choices they make, even if it's not the same life he ends up leading. His choice to go to prep school and go to a good university comes out of his love for learning; his love for classical literature and history. Other kids may have viewed this stuff as ancient history, but Mr. Padilla Peralta feels the life in it and makes it his passion. The book is the personal story of someone who could've fallen into the shadows of society, as an undocumented person, but whose drive to learn and grow lets him bloom in the light.

Undocumented presents a voice for "illegal aliens" or "undocumented citizens" living on American soil. In a time when many Americans hold very strong and negative notions about illegal aliens, this biography supplies a counter-argument to ill thought out and often ignorant opinions. Dan-el Padilla Peralta's story shares what hard work, determination, and spirit can accomplish when it feels like everything is trying to hold you back. Dan-el successfully wrote an eloquent and inspiring book about his own inspiring story.


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