Harvard Educational Review
  1. Fall 2015 Issue »

    On the Grammar of Silence

    The Structure of My Undocumented Immigrant Writer’s Block

    ALBERTO LEDESMA
    In this reflective essay, Alberto Ledesma explores how being undocumented can produce a particular form of writer’s block. He argues that there is a pattern of predictable silences and obfuscations inherent in all undocumented immigrant autobiographies that cannot be easily negotiated when undocumented students are asked to write about “their experiences.” Ledesma contends that these patterns of silences often manifest as apparent rhetorical or mechanical errors in academic prose rather than intentional obfuscations meant to protect the writer’s undocumented identity from being discovered. Reflecting on his own life experiences as a former undocumented student, Ledesma highlights that, paradoxically, the lifelong conditioning in silence may also interfere when undocumented writers are ready to render their authentic stories in public.

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    Alberto Ledesma was born in Jalisco, Mexico, in 1965. He was brought to Oakland, California, at eight years old as an undocumented immigrant. Since then, Alberto has graduated from Berkeley three times and has held faculty positions at Cal State University, Monterey Bay, and UC Berkeley. His dissertation, “The Dialectics of Silence and Subterfuge,” is one of the earliest critical works written in the United States on the representation of undocumented immigrants in fiction. Over the years, Alberto has published poems, essays, and short stories in a variety of venues. He is a past winner of UC Irvine’s Chicano/Latino Literary Prize and was a featured writer in Gary Soto’s Chicano Chapbook series. His essays have appeared in various edited collections, including David R. Maciel’s Culture Across Borders (University of Arizona Press, 1998) and Arturo J. Aldama and Naomi Quiñonez’s Decolonial Voices (Indiana University Press, 2002). During the last few years, his cartoons have been published on various websites including New American Media, Culturestr/ke, Buzzfeed, and Pocho. They have also been published in Dismantle: An Anthology of Voices from the VONA/Voices Writing Workshop (AK Press, 2014). His current work in progress is Diary of a Reluctant Dreamer: Vignettes from an Undocumented Life.
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    Fall 2015 Issue

    Abstracts

    “Diles la verdad”
    Deportation Policies, Politicized Funds of Knowledge, and Schooling in Middle Childhood
    SARAH GALLO AND HOLLY LINK
    “My Student Was Apprehended by Immigration”
    A Civics Teacher’s Breach of Silence in a Mixed-Citizenship Classroom
    DAFNEY BLANCA DABACH
    The Art of Unlearning
    CLINT SMITH
    On the Grammar of Silence
    The Structure of My Undocumented Immigrant Writer’s Block
    ALBERTO LEDESMA
    Undocumented Undergraduates on College Campuses
    Understanding Their Challenges and Assets and What It Takes to Make an Undocufriendly Campus
    CAROLA SUÁREZ-OROZCO, DALAL KATSIAFICAS, OLIVIA BIRCHALL, CYNTHIA M. ALCANTAR, EDWIN HERNANDEZ, YULIANA GARCIA, MINAS MICHIKYAN, JANET CERDA, ROBERT T. TERANISHI
    UC Berkeley’s Undocumented Student Program
    Holistic Strategies for Undocumented Student Equitable Success Across Higher Education
    RUBEN ELIAS CANEDO SANCHEZ AND MENG L. SO
    Undocumented Status and Schooling for Newcomer Teens
    ELAINE C. ALLARD
    Editor's Review
    STEPHANY CUEVAS
    Afterword
    Imagined Futures
    ROBERTO G. GONZALES
    Foreword
    Human Rights for Undocumented Students and Their Families
    MARY C. WATERS
    Editors' Introduction
    Dissolving Boundaries: Understanding Undocumented Students’ Educational Experiences
    Untangling Plyler’s Legacy
    Undocumented Students, Schools, and Citizenship
    ROBERTO G. GONZALES, LUISA L. HEREDIA, GENEVIEVE NEGRÓN-GONZALES
    The Unlikelihood of Family
    A Photographic Essay on Transnational Experiences
    CRISTINA LLERENA NAVARRO

    Book Notes

    Everyday Illegal
    Joanna Dreby