Review of Undocumented: A Worker's Fight

Undocumented: A Worker’s Fight
by Duncan Tonatiuh; illus. by the author
Middle School, High School    Abrams ComicArts    24 pp. 
8/18    978-1-4197-2854-9   $19.99 

“You don’t know our names but you’ve seen us.” The accompanying illustration is of Juan, an undocumented immigrant, with one hand raised in a fist and the other holding a megaphone from which the text and the subsequent illustrations appear to flow. Juan is an Indigenous man from “a small village in Mexico” who crosses the Mexico–United States border (on a second attempt, after being caught and beaten the first time he tried). He lives “in a poor neighborhood where los polis sometimes harass you for no reason,” and works at a restaurant. Li, a waitress, points out that he and his fellow undocumented workers are not being paid minimum wage or receiving benefits, although they work grueling hours. He and Li rally their coworkers, and they file a legal complaint to gain just benefits and compensation. Tonatiuh (Separate Is Never Equal, rev. 7/14; Funny Bones, rev. 11/15; The Princess and the Warrior, rev. 9/16) effectively uses a two-sided accordion-folded format inspired by Mixtec codices. His illustrations employ many of the conventions of sequential as well as Mixtec art, including well-paced panels and vignettes, with his signature two-dimensional figures seen in profile. The text is direct, straightforward, and conversational (“The boss…cut my hours. I was barely making any money, man”) with a smattering of Spanish words throughout — although Juan’s first language is Mixteco, which he speaks with his coworkers so the boss can’t understand them. An appended author’s note tells of Tonatiuh’s inspiration for this story — a profound and timely human odyssey.

From the January/February 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Monica Tapia Boyer
Monica Tapia Boyer holds an MLIS from Dominican University and is a Data Analysis Librarian at Schaumburg Township District Library (Schaumburg, Illinois). She is a American Library Association Spectrum Scholarship alumna.

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