"An excellent, in-depth study of immigration policies gone amok." - Library Journal
"Narrator Paula Christensen provides a believable set of accents and rhythms for the Mexicans and Mexican-Americans featured, as well as for the outspoken politicians who join in the political debate. Christensen’s delivery enhances the characters’ personalities and Thorpe’s depiction of the heated political climate of that period." - AudioFile Magazine
"Just Like Us beautifully and powerfully reminds us of the individuals whose lives lie at the center of the chaos that is our approach to immigration. Helen Thorpe has taken policy and turned it into literature." - Malcolm Gladwell
"With a gaze that is tender and ever alert, Helen Thorpe follows the lives of four young women - Mexican and American - so alike in their coming-of-age, but separated by the ironies of geography, the border that cuts through the heart." - Richard Rodriguez, author of Brown: The Last Discovery of America
"This is a penetrating, fair, and refreshingly personal examination of the passions that fuel the immigration controversy in this country. Helen Thorpe measures the arguments on both sides of this national debate against the actual human costs imposed by the status quo. This book will find a central place in this debate." - Lawrence Wright, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Looming Tower
"With a perfect combination of narrative and reflection, empathy and analysis, Helen Thorpe tells both a particular story of four irresistibly engaging young women, and a universal story of the struggle between human aspiration and intractible obstacles. If this book gets widely read, our national conversation on immigration could make a shift from 'shrill and draining' to 'thoughtful and productive.' In this book, the force and power of journalism reach their peak." - Patricia Nelson Limerick, author of The Legacy of Conquest
Thorpe, a veteran reporter, brings a journalist's eye to her story. Her narrative is quick-paced and full of incident and clamor…she goes across the border to bang around in trucks and cough in the dust clouds. Yet her attention to ambience and detail lends a vibe that is enriched by her empathy…Both the journey and the destination haunt the book, and the United States can seem as alien as the distant landscapes from which the immigrants have come. Rather than finding this whole scene enervating, Thorpe finds it exhilarating.
The Washington Post
By the time Marisela, Yadira, Clara and Elissa-four girls of Mexican descent from the suburbs of Denver-entered their freshman year in high school, they were inseparable, but four years later, their fundamental difference threatened to divide them: Clara and Elissa were legal residents, but Marisela and Yadira had begun to suffer the repercussions of their parents' choice to illegally enter the U.S. Journalist Thorpe, married to Denver mayor John Hickenlooper, met them as the girls without legal status were finding their friends' liberties-big and small-to attend college, drive or even rent a movie unbearable. "It was hard for Marisela and Yadira to see why they should labor over their homework if they were just going to end up working at McDonald's," Thorpe writes. "Marisela slid into trouble with ease, but Yadira found the experience profoundly disorienting." With striking candor, Thorpe chronicles the girls' lives over four years, delineating the small but arresting differences that will separate them and shape their futures. She personalizes the ongoing debate over immigration and frames it so compassionately and sensibly that even the staunchest opponents of immigration liberalization might find themselves rethinking their positions. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Journalist Thorpe, who is, incidentally, the wife of Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, portrays the complex web of politics, immigration issues, sex and drugs, forged IDs, jobs and education, family troubles, and deportations involved with immigration laws. She chose four senior girls at Roosevelt High School in Denver, where over 85 percent of the students are Latino, and followed them for five years. Two girls are illegal immigrants, one is a registered alien, and one a U.S. citizen, born in Texas. Thus, their fates are different. All four wrestle with identity and how to get into college, pay tuition and bills, and deal with family problems. Thorpe gives a detailed account of those five years—from hanging out at Mexican nightclubs to attending college classes with them. Throughout the book, U.S. Congressman Tom Tancredo looms large; he has supported closing the border, deporting all immigrants, and cleansing America of "foreign" influences. VERDICT Thorpe's work raises hundreds of questions and will be a good choice for book clubs and readers interested in narrative nonfiction. An excellent, in-depth study of immigration policies gone amok.—Linda Beck, Indian Valley P.L., Telford, PA
Random Family moves west in this incredibly human investigation of illegal immigration. Taking a page from Adrian LeBlanc's 2003 book, journalist Thorpe spent several years with her subjects-four Mexican girls, two legal, two undocumented. Elissa and Clara have endured many of the problems of immigrant life, including poverty, absent fathers, mounting familial responsibilities and intense pressure to succeed. But for Marisela and Yadira, who crossed the border with coyotes as babies, the hurdles are much higher. Both exceptional high-school students, the two illegal immigrants were ineligible for financial aid or in-state tuition at any public universities. Though they managed to find private benefactors and enroll at the University of Denver, even with a college degree their options are limited-without Social Security cards, they won't be able to work legally. Alongside the lack of medical insurance, the inability to travel and the constant fear of deportation, the future, even for these extremely talented and motivated students, looks grim. As Thorpe followed the girls, Denver became a hotbed of immigration issues when an illegal alien was arrested for shooting a police officer. Further complicating matters was the fact that Thorpe is married to Denver mayor John Hickenlooper. "Fortune handed me a messy braid of narratives, spliced together by bizarre connections," she writes. "In the end, though, this is what immigration is like: inherently messy. The issue bleeds. And we are all implicated." The author's position in the Denver political scene gives her a unique perspective, but her real strength is the painstaking way in which she gets to know the women and their families. Through thelives of four fascinating young women, Thorpe creates not only a moving examination of a complicated American issue, but a well-told, inspirational story as well. Agent: Denise Shannon/Denise Shannon Literary Agency