Children of the Land: A Memoir; Marcelo Hernandez Castillo
- Unit Price
This unforgettable memoir from a prize-winning poet about growing up undocumented in the United States recounts the sorrows and joys of a family torn apart by draconian policies and chronicles one young man’s attempt to build a future in a nation that denies his existence.
“You were not a ghost even though an entire country was scared of you. No one in this story was a ghost. This was not a story.”
When Marcelo Hernandez Castillo was five years old and his family was preparing to cross the border between Mexico and the United States, he suffered temporary, stress-induced blindness. Castillo regained his vision, but quickly understood that he had to move into a threshold of invisibility before settling in California with his parents and siblings. Thus began a new life of hiding in plain sight and of paying extraordinarily careful attention at all times for fear of being truly seen. Before Castillo was one of the most celebrated poets of a generation, he was a boy who perfected his English in the hopes that he might never seem extraordinary.
With beauty, grace, and honesty, Castillo recounts his and his family’s encounters with a system that treats them as criminals for seeking safe, ordinary lives. He writes of the Sunday afternoon when he opened the door to an ICE officer who had one hand on his holster, of the hours he spent making a fake social security card so that he could work to support his family, of his father’s deportation and the decade that he spent waiting to return to his wife and children only to be denied reentry, and of his mother’s heartbreaking decision to leave her children and grandchildren so that she could be reunited with her estranged husband and retire from a life of hard labor.
Children of the Land distills the trauma of displacement, illuminates the human lives behind the headlines and serves as a stunning meditation on what it means to be a man and a citizen.
January 28, 2020
About the Author
He was born in Zacatecas, Mexico and immigrated to the California central valley. As an AB540 student, he earned his B.A. from Sacramento State University and was the first undocumented student to graduate from the Helen Zell Writers Program at the University of Michigan. He is a founding member of the Undocupoets campaign which successfully eliminated citizenship requirements from all major first poetry book prizes in the country and was recognized with the Barnes and Noble Writers for Writers award. He has helped to establish The Undocupoet Fellowship which provides funding to help curb the cost of submissions to journals and contests for undocumented writers.
He is the translator of the Argentinian modernist poet, Jacobo Fijman and is currently at work translating the poems of the contemporary Mexican Peruvian poet Yaxkin Melchy. He co-translated the work of the Mexican poet Marcelo Uribe with C.D. Wright before her untimely passing.
His work has been adopted to opera through collaboration with the composer Reinaldo Moya and has appeared or been featured in The New York Times, The Paris Review, The Academy of American Poets, PBS Newshour, Fusion TV, Buzzfeed, Gulf Coast, New England Review, People Magazine, and Indiana Review, among others.
A graduate of the Canto Mundo Latinx Poetry fellowship, he has also received fellowships to attend the Vermont Studio Center and the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop. He teaches at the Ashland Low-Res MFA Program and teaches poetry workshops for incarcerated youth in Northern California.