DREAMing Out Loud Anthology Centers Undocumented Voices
New book from PEN America elevates DREAMers voices at uncertain time
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(New York, NY) —PEN America today debuts its second annual anthology by emerging undocumented immigrant writers, DREAMing Out Loud: Voices of Undocumented Writers. Available for purchase here, the anthology collects writings from PEN America’s DREAMing Out Loud program, a tuition-free writing workshop for emerging undocumented immigrant writers in New York City. These searing 55 poems, short stories, memoirs, and screenplays portray a vibrant snapshot of the trials and lived experience of contributors amid a time of great uncertainty.
“When we began DREAMing Out Loud, the president was still Obama, and there was not much conscience for how problematic a young migrant’s situation is in the United States,” said the program’s founder and director Álvaro Enrigue. “It was not only a way of helping someone to find their voice and to convince them that their voice mattered; it was also a way to produce social conscience about a very actual problem in America.”
The anthology opens with an introduction by poet and DREAMing Out Loud teaching artist Charlie Vázquez, who lays out the particular spotlight COVID-19 has shone on inequalities in American society, particularly the vulnerabilities facing undocumented people in New York as the pandemic struck communities of color most deeply. From there, the collection includes a rumination on the Supreme Court’s DACA decision (which provided a temporary reprieve for DREAMers just weeks ago); a poem on family and survival; an essay on generational trauma; and another on the contrasts between Lagos and The Bronx.
“Now perhaps more than ever, with the Supreme Court providing some temporary relief, these essays reflect the anxieties and traumas confronting an entire generation of would-be Americans, who are part of the tapestry of American life in all but documentation,” said PEN America’s Nicole Gervasio, the collection’s editor. “But it would be an injustice to characterize the collection as a list of grievances. Instead, it’s a powerful piece of literature that uplifts and moves you to act and recognize our shared humanity.”
In a poem “Beholden,” writer Karen Y. Rodriguez writes, “The blindfold is off. / Maybe America isn’t the Land of Dreams? / Maybe it isn’t the land of immigrants?” Essayist A. C. Almeida pens a piece “Americaninha,” a nickname that means “little American” in Portuguese. Halima S. writes about an encounter with the NYPD, showcasing how even a casual run-in with law enforcement can spell disaster for young undocumented people. And in a piece of short fiction, Yesica Balderrama writes of Lucinda and her family memories that sustain her.
“There’s never been a time when these voices, these writers have felt more essential to the American canon,” said PEN America’s Gervasio. “Even when New York City went into lockdown, the DREAMers in this program persevered, as their own neighborhoods and even some of their families were infected with the pandemic. We’re proud to bring this collection to the public, and hope that at a moment of heightened tension and distress, it provides an important literary narrative for the country.”
The book is available for purchase here. DREAMing Out Loud is supported by public funds from the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media Entertainment and Department of Cultural Affairs, as well as the Vilcek Foundation.