Just Like Us by Helen Thorpe

April 7, 2010
By JuanitaM BRONZE, Thornton, Colorado
JuanitaM BRONZE, Thornton, Colorado
3 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Just Like Us is a stunning work by Helen Thorpe that talks about the American subculture of the Mexican immigrants who are largely hidden from the mainstream. The story is about four girls of Mexican heritage growing up in Denver, Colorado. Each of the four is bright, ambitious, and an excellent student. They all share the same dream, to go to college, but each of their circumstances was different. Marisela is loud, dramatic, and wore twice as much make up as any of the four. She wants to engage a professional career, but does not possess a green card or a Social Security number. Yadira, strong and reserved, shares the same predicament as Marisela. Both of them spend their time with Clara and Elissa who are both legal. Clara, who usually dresses like a tomboy, received her green card during her junior year. Elissa, the star athlete, was born in the United States.
Throughout their time knowing each other, they treat themselves as equals; however, the world does not treat them that way. As they reach they’re junior and senior years, their situation becomes more complex when Marisela and Yadira watch their two legal friends gain opportunities that are not available to them. Their friendship starts to divide among the immigration status. Denver becomes one of the centers of the immigration discussions during the years the book in written in. Congressman Tom Tancredo brings upon the idea that immigrants must be deported, which raises more the issue throughout the book.
The content of the book is without doubt intriguing. The lengths of Helen Thorpe’s research in remarkable. Just Like Us is as entertaining as it is important. It is composed not only with the story of the four girls, but it also includes information about every situation that affected them. This consists of the political movements that were taking place during those years, and their personal lives, involving their families and what they went through, as well. Thorpe, more than a just journalist, appears to be like a detective. She emerges in the political world, appearing in every meeting evolving around the immigration debate. Helen Thorpe follows the girls, whether it is to dance clubs, family parties, and attends many of the girls’ classes.
The book offers interesting insight into one of the most complicated social issues today. I admire the author for the depths into which she was able to lead her story. Also, for the images she painted of a coming-of-age story about friendship, girlhood, and most of all, identity. It teaches what it really means to support other people and accept them for who they are, not for what they have or don’t have. With this book, those who are usually in the background are brought to the front. Just Like Us is an honest, insightful, and incredibly moving piece of work. I highly recommended to anyone who is interested in learning the everyday life of an immigrant.

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