(NEW YORK)– The literary and free expression organization PEN America has published the fourth volume of DREAMing Out Loud: An Anthology of Migrant Writing, a collection of original writing exploring change and adaptation by migrant authors in New York City. This year’s anthology includes 23 daring short stories, plays, personal essays, and poems by writers from Venezuela, Nigeria, Japan, Mexico, Guyana, Colombia, and more. The book collects writings from PEN America’s DREAMing Out Loud program, a tuition-free writing workshop for migrant writers, primarily those who are undocumented, DACA recipients, and/or DREAMers who came to the United States when they were children. Funded by the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, the 2022 program was also supported by the CUNY Mexican Studies Institute, New York Theatre Workshop, and National Queer Theatre.

This latest collection offers writers’ reflections on universal questions relevant to the immigrant experience—What do you miss the most about the community you left behind? What are your hopes and dreams for the future? How does your experience compare to your expectations?—while also exploring themes drawn from changing urban life that many New Yorkers will recognize.

Learn more about the book and the program here. You can purchase the book here.

“The extraordinary challenges and backgrounds that bind these writers together as New Yorkers make for powerful reading,” said PEN America’s Jared Jackson. “They offer a remarkable and enduring window into the strengths and travails experienced by those who grow up as migrants in this country. Among them are tomorrow’s writers, artists, thinkers, and leaders. We would all be wiser to understand the paths they have taken.”

The 23 entries span genres and styles, offering a window into the challenges of identity, statelessness and belonging, isolation, survival and family, the sacrifices made by immigrant parents, how migrants develop a complex new identity, and more.

  • Aria Isberto, from the Philippines, writes in “The Twentieth Year,” about the relationship between immigrant parents and their children: “It is about two people, a mother and a father, whose love will carry generations of immigrants in this country, immigrants rising on the backs of sacrifices made over twenty years – and counting. Sacrifices impossible to enumerate.”
  • In “Tell Me One More Story,” Adne Brea Weaver, from Mexico, addresses how the immigrant experience changes the core of who you will become: “I am no longer the immigrant who stepped in New York alone, with a fifty-dollar bill and her parents’ blessing. I am nothing yet. But I know, deep inside this heart of lighted coal, that I am to be somebody new. “
  • A poem by Bryant Dominguez, from Mexico, powerfully contemplates life changes: You will get judged. You will wish to be somebody else. You will be willing to do everything you are supposed to do. To be somebody that you are not.
  • In a moving personal essay, Luz M. Aguirre, from Mexico, writes: “How do I convey to those who seem to hate me that my life matters as much as theirs, that we exist in this world where we elbowed ourselves into existence, that I just want to live an examined and meaningful life in this country where I was forged.”
  • In “No One To Turn To,” Jeraldin, from Mexico, probes the fear that envelopes migrant children who must hide their identities: “A fake ID, a fake name, and my “mother” warning me that if I messed up, I would never see my mother again.”

The fourth volume in the anthology series includes an introduction by the playwright and writer Cherry Lou Sy, who also taught DREAMing Out Loud workshops. She writes: “In PEN America’s Dreaming Out Loud program, I’ve encountered refugees and asylum seekers, DACA Dreamers, undocumented parents, and children of undocumented immigrants. They are all searching their way through the darkness and confusion, looking for their voices, quashed by the machinery of the oppressive systems that seek to erase their humanity. All I can do is listen, and ask them to speak louder. Tell them: This room is yours too. Let us learn together. Let your voice sing.”

Álvaro Enrigue, who founded the program in 2016, wrote in a blurb: “These voices, put together in a book, tell a story. A New York story, but also a history of the world as it is today. These are urgent stories of change and adaptation, true life stories—no matter if they are fiction or not. They claim our attention as pieces of fine contemporary writing, but also as political documents, as figures of life in the vast mural of the ever changing city, as the brutally moving register of what is more human in us.”

Others who teach in the program include writers Charlie Vázquez and Hannah Kingsley-Ma, and playwright Victor I. Cazares.

By providing community and professional support to the next generation of immigrant writers, the program seeks to counter anti-immigrant sentiment and to amplify the voices of many living in this country who are marginalized because of their immigration status. In addition to the anthology, works from this year’s DREAMing Out Loud cohort were also featured as part of the 2022 PEN America World Voices Festival.

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, STrimel@PEN.org, 201-247-5057