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Plan II Common Read: Undocumented

Tue, November 28, 2017
Plan II Common Read: Undocumented
Penguin Random House, 2016

Invitation from Plan II Director, Dr. Alexandra Wettlaufer:

This winter we are launching a new initiative—the Plan II Common Read—where the entire Plan II community (students, faculty, and staff) is invited to read a single book and participate in discussing it from a variety of perspectives. The book we have chosen, Dan-El Padilla Peralta’s Undocumented: A Dominican Boy’s Odyssey from a Homeless Shelter to the Ivy League (described below), is both engaged and engaging: this first-person narrative addresses issues of family, identity, race, immigration, education, mobility, and equity in ways that are both thoughtful and compelling.

One of the central ideas behind our Common Read is to stimulate conversations about current social issues and to provide an opportunity for us consider, singly and collectively, some of the major debates we face today. Plan II is a community that seeks to embrace diverse points of view and we very much hope that the group discussions of Undocumented will offer a forum for all of us to explore our own ideas and those of others in productive ways. I hope you will join us in reading Undocumented over the Winter Break, conversing about it with other Plan II-ers when we return, and in welcoming the author to campus on Wednesday, February 28th for the annual Glickman Lectureship.

A limited number of free books will be available to current Plan II students on a first-come, first-served basis - details below. There will also be two copies of the book available to students on reserve in the Joynes Reading Room.

Dan-el Padilla Peralta has lived the American dream. As a boy, he arrived in the United States legally with his family. Together they had traveled from Santo Domingo to seek medical care for his mother. Soon the family’s visas lapsed, and Dan-el’s father eventually returned home. But Dan-el’s courageous mother decided to stay and make a better life for her bright sons in New York City.

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. At another shelter 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 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 immersed himself in a world of books and rose to the top of his class.

From Collegiate, Dan-el went on to Princeton, 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 essential reading for the debate on immigration, but it is also an unforgettable tale of a passionate young scholar coming of age in two very different worlds.

**Plan II students who would like a free copy of Undocumented may come to the Plan II office starting Wednesday, November 29th to pick one up (first-come, first-served, until they run out!). Students who receive a free copy will be required to sign up for a discussion group with a Plan II professor in the Spring. Details about discussion group times and sign-up will be emailed to students after the winter break.**

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