“The future of America, its openness and understanding that we, as a nation, have always depended has thrived on the energy, ideas and struggle of immigrants like Alberto Ledesma. The promised land can only be envisioned by the newcomer to our shore. Ledesma’s story, its powerful images, is needed now more than ever in an age of rising xenophobia and continual exploitation.” —Andrew Lam, winner of the PEN Open Book Award
“Alberto Ledesma’s gorgeous drawings have fascinated me for a long time. Now his stunning work has become a book for the ages.” —Luis Alberto Urrea
In this hybrid memoir, Alberto Ledesma wonders, At what point does a long-time undocumented immigrant become an American in the making? From undocumented little boy to “hyper documented” university professor, Ledesma recounts how even now, he sometimes finds himself reverting to the child he was, recalling his father’s words: “Mijo, it doesn’t matter how good you think your English is, la migra will still get you.”
Exploring Ledesma’s experiences from immigrant to student to academic, Diary of a Reluctant Dreamer presents a humorous, gritty, and multilayered portrait of undocumented immigrant life in urban America. Ledesma’s vignettes about life in the midst of ongoing social trauma give voice to a generation that has long been silent about its struggles. Delving into the key moments of cultural transition throughout his childhood and adulthood—police at the back door waiting to deport his family, the ex-girlfriend who threatens to call INS and report him, and the interactions with law enforcement even after he is no longer undocumented—Ledesma, through his art and his words, provides a glimpse into the psychological and philosophical concerns of undocumented immigrant youth who struggle to pinpoint their identity and community.