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Are you Martine Mwanj Kalaw? If so your father is looking for youMartine is forced to make a choice in an immigration courtroom Her decision catapults her into a tumultuous and seven year battle with immigration and a personal struggle to discover her identity Ten years later at age thirty three a social media message reconnects Martine with the father she thought dead for twenty years Here begins the story of a prep school illegal immigrant’s return to her birthland of Zambia She travels to Africa to unlock the key to her past but what she discovers is unimaginable and will never leave her the sameA typical American college girl by all appearances Martine’s innocent ignorance of her own immigration status erupts in a battle for US citizenship while avoiding deportation to her country of origin the war torn Democratic Republic of the Congo DRC Without documentation on the African continent in either DRC or Zambia no country claims a stateless MartineAfter seven years six lawyers numerous Master Calendar hearings motions rejections appeals and testimony before the US Congress on behalf of The Dream Act in 2012 Martine becomes a US citizen and two years later she returns to Zambia Only then does Martine discover a truth about her mother and father which ultimately brings her resolve and an identity


10 thoughts on “Illegal Among Us

  1. says:

    Immigration is obviously an especially important topic at the moment so I was really looking forward to this memoirIllegal Among Us follows two storylines Martine’s discovery that she doesn’t have permanent resident status came as a child with her mom and a separate discovery that her dad is alive in ZambiaI do not know much about what immigration court looks like my family came over long before that was a thing so this was a necessary education for meI found both storylines interesting but the connection a little forced The narrative bounces between storylines and sometimes the bounces were abruptThe writing didn’t really live up to the story and the editing didn’t help Some basic things got through like a “plane face” and Laura who became Amy two paragraphs laterA compelling story but without writing to match


  2. says:

    This book takes the reader along an extraordinary journey through Martine Kalaw's life and the labyrinthine immigration process she surmounted It is a deeply personal page turner enhanced by the use of nonlinear narrative techniue throughout Mini chapters go from her childhood in Washington DC then shift forward to present day then go back to her college years and shift around again These narratives fit together emotionally for a much better effect than if her memoir had been written in strict chronological orderMartine came to the US legally at age four with her late mother who was a US permanent resident While Martine was attending Hamilton College she found out she was an illegal alien then subseuently found out she was stateless because Zaire the country she left as a kid was now Democratic Republic of Congo which did not recognize her She was also not recognized by Zambia where she spent her early years Her reserve of strength and optimism coupled with her ability to persevere against all odds really comes through in the parts dealing with her bureaucratic and legal struggle to get properly documented statusThis book is important because it sheds light on the circumstances of illegal aliens or undocumented immigrants The title is fitting because in Martine's case peers and colleagues would never have known she was an illegal at one point By writing this book Martine does a great service in helping to allow undocumented status to be spoken about frankly She demystifies the subject and ultimately makes it less tabooWhat makes this book especially rich is that it is much than just a story of a gut wrenching and protracted immigration journey It is a story of self discovery A story of finding long lost family A story of trauma and tragedy A story of abuse of abuse and injustice A story of attempted suicide This is a well written memoir by a first time author I highly recommend it and look forward to the author's future written work


  3. says:

    Martine's Story is the ambassador for 2019 The first time I met Martine in person I noticed she was a poised sophisticated cool soul; but I had no idea she had such an urgent current story behind her A couple years later I found out she was publishing her story I immediately bought it read it I went to her book signing Omg If you ever have a chance to meet Martine in person you will be forever changed She is the most down to earth beauty brain with a global purpose And I had no idea she had survived such impossible obstacles Her book is so relatable you will cry you will love her and because of her you will feel such compassion for the millions of other people stuck in our brutal immigration system I also fell in love with the other beautiful people in her book love Celeste Mutoto Charlotte and everyone who helped Martine I'm lucky to have met Martine lucky to have read her book It's a must read for all ages; and for every global citizen


  4. says:

    Martine Kalaw’s story is an incredible one She takes us on a true journey; as readers we are right there with her throughout the whole book Through immense trauma and loss Martine never lost her magnificent light and hope Martine and her story are an inspiration to us all This memoir will move you so very deeply I enthusiastically recommend to all


  5. says:

    A great read A poignant and touching account of one woman’s journey through the contrived and complicated mire that is the US immigration system all weaved through an emotional personal story detailing the abuse of a sickly mother the affection of a kind stepfather culminating with the triumphant discovery of a long lost father