Growing up in San Antonio, Texas most of classmates in middle school looked like me; they had brown skin and black hair. I heard Spanish being spoken almost every day at the grocery store, the playground, and of course, at home. I saw more Mexican restaurants than I did McDonald’s around town. My Mexican culture was all around me. But not once in my 6-12th grade education did I read a book that was written by a Latina author or that had Latinx characters or stories about someone like me.
I am not even talking about a book that had a Mexican immigrant girl who ends up finding out she is undocumented and despite the challenges her immigration status brings, fulfills her dream of going to college. I am talking about a book that had any Latinx characters. If such books existed, I did not know. Looking back, I now recognize the damage that not seeing my experiences reflected in the pages of the books I read had on my upbringing.
First, it made me feel lonely. I knew I couldn’t be the only undocumented student in America who feared being separated from her parents, but it was not something I could discuss with my classmates, teachers, or friends. Secondly, I believed my experiences were not important. I thought that if not a single book spoke about someone like me, it must be because no one cares enough to write stories like mine. And lastly, the lack of stories like mine robbed my classmates from learning, relating, and empathizing with experiences outside their immediate world. Someone Like Me is ultimately about our human desire to belong, whether it’s in a new school, a new city, or as was my case, in a new country.