The Oberlin Review

“Citizen Illegal” Rejects Generalizations of Immigrant Experience

Nathan Carpenter, Editor-in-Chief

September 7, 2018

  The current immigration system in the United States is a hopelessly broken contradiction. We demonize immigrants and yet rely on and exploit their labor to sustain our economy. Our highest court upholds policy that uses the arbitrary justification of borders to dictate who is banned from entering our country. It is within this context that Citizen Illegal — a stunning debut by poet José Olivarez — exists. As its title suggests, the collection of poems focuses significantly on immigration, borders, home, and movement, particularly in a Mexican and Mexican-American context. Olivarez’ work is so powerful, however, because of its personal anecdotes and its commentary on how our national contradictions complica...

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