Someone Like Me by Arce




This young adult novel follows Julissa Arce, a young girl from Mexico who later immigrated to the United States. Julissa navigates a variety of circumstances, such as her undocumented status, complicated family life, and financial instability, that interfere in her fight to achieve her American Dream. She meets these challenges head on and achieves her dreams by graduating high school, attending college, pursuing a successful career, and gaining citizenship.



Reviews & Reception

"One doesn't often think that a harrowing immigration story will end with an undocumented girl becoming a vice president at a U.S. multinational investment bank. And yet, Arce's story paints a picture of an ambitious child willing to do anything to live the American Dream, even in a country that may not initially want her." Adriana E. Ramirez, The Los Angeles Times
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"Arce, who's My (Underground) American Dream (2017) recounted for adults her story of hope and hard work in the face of obstacles, turns to a younger audience in an adaptation for young readers…. An honest and heartfelt story of survival."  Kirkus Reviews
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"Someone Like Me is a brave and important story that shows the beautiful resilience of immigrants forging a home in an unfamiliar land. Julissa's honest, assertive voice is both refreshing and inspirational, a gift for young women of color everywhere. This book should be required reading." Erika L. Sánchez, New York Times Bestselling Author of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter




Amber Picard & Abigail Kaye, 2020


Julissa Arce


Julissa's story begins when she’s a three year old girl living with her mother, father, and sisters, Nay and Aris, in Taxco, Mexico. Julissa’s parents are largely absent as they work to support the family, so Julissa initially knows “family” as her grandmother and her nanny Cande. She later moves to Texas with her parents and younger brother, where she fights to achieve her American Dream as an undocumented immigrant.


Julissa's Mother


The primary caregiver of the family. Julissa's mother works at different festivals, first selling silver jewelry and later selling funnel cakes and tacos, to make money for the family. Julissa’s mother is absent a lot in the book, which greatly affects Julissa’s childhood and development. Julissa is inspired by her mother’s work ethic, persistence, and determination. 


Julissa's Father


Julissa’s father initially works with her mother but later provides for the family by staying home to raise Julissa and Julio when they move to Texas. He provides a sense of structure and support in the home, but this is complicated by his alcoholism and abusive behavior.




Julissa’s younger brother. He’s seen as her parents’ “miracle child” because he's their first boy and Julissa’s mother was told she could no longer have children after giving birth to Julissa. While Julissa initially feels like he is replacing her, the two eventually become closer as they grow up together in Texas.




One of Julissa’s older sisters. She stayed in Mexico to attend school but later moved to Texas and briefly lived with Julissa and their parents. Julissa and Aris bonded during this time over Julissa’s new boyfriend.



Amber Picard & Abigail Kaye, 2020


American Dream


This novel mainly follows Julissa as she pursues her American Dream, but the dreams and aspirations of her family also play a central role. Her parents struggles and efforts to achieve their dream are illustrated throughout the novel as they begin selling jewelry in the United States, move to Texas with Julissa and Julio, and try to build a life and provide for their family in a new country. Julissa likewise encounters struggles of her own, which are mostly the result of her undocumented status.


Financial (In)Stability 


Financial stability, or the lack thereof, raises a variety of issues within the novel. Julissa’s parents initially begin making trips to the United States to sell jewelry so they can provide for their family in Mexico. They continue this enterprise in the United States, and Julissa attends trade shows and works with her parents as a young girl. The family experiences financial strain throughout the book, which is exacerbated by a series of thefts carried out by her parents’ assistant, Sam. This puts a lot of stress on her parents, which contributes to her father’s alcoholism and abusive behavior. Julissa remarks several times that she wants to be able to provide for her family and help alleviate this stress, and this desire leads to her later decision to study business in college and pursue a career on Wall Street.



Importance of Education


The importance of education is heavily emphasized throughout the novel. Julissa’s parents push her and her sisters to do well in school, both in Mexico and in the United States. Education is seen as a way to advance and improve yourself. Education is critical towards the end of the novel as well. Julissa is rejected from all the colleges she applies to because she doesn’t have a social security number. She worries her efforts in high school will be wasted simply because she is undocumented and she won’t be able to achieve her American Dream. Ultimately, she is able to attend the University of Texas through the Texas House Bill 1403. She majors in business and goes on to pursue a successful career on Wall Street.



Family Values in Different Cultures


Julissa finds herself trying to balance two different cultures after she moves to the United States. She tries to maintain her Mexican roots but also must adapt to the new country she lives in, which produces mixed results. She enjoys eating Tex Mex food with her dad, but is crushed when she is told she can’t celebrate her quinceañera like her sisters did. Julissa finds ways to embrace American culture, such as joining the cheer team and going to a Spurs game with her younger brother, Julio. This proves to be a difficult balancing act for Julissa as a young girl, but she finds ways to make it work.


Amber Picard & Abigail Kaye, 2020


Julissa, pg. 166


"…I made up my mind that there were going to be times I just had to live. And in those moments, I knew: If I got caught, then I got caught. I couldn't imagine living my entire life in a cage. If I didn't take a risk, I wouldn't feel alive."


Julissa's mother, pg. 114


"At the end of one trade show that summer, we were packing the boxes and suitcases of jewelry into a van. There were still many boxes left that wouldn't fit…. She took the boxes and suitcases out of the van and started over again, arranging them in different ways. I stood next to the van, exhausted from the weekend, but my mom got every single box to fit. And that was how she approached everything. Over and over again I watched my mom persevere and figure things out when others would have quit."


Julissa's father, pg. 119-120


"He was very patient when he was teaching me things, and I loved that he wanted me to know everything a father would teach a son, just like when I was a little girl. He said if I was going to drive I needed to learn how to fix a flat tire, how to change the oil, and what questions to ask a mechanic. I wished he could have been like that always. He was such a wonderful dad, most of the time. He was always there to solve any problem. He told us jokes and did goofy dances just to make us laugh. He was really fun — until he wasn't."


Julio, pg. 59


Then the news got worse: The baby was a boy. She tried to tell me it was a miracle. 'Your dad and I have prayed for a baby boy for twenty years. God has finally heard our prayers.' I liked how happy she was, especially after seeing her so sad and worried on her last trip to Taxco. But I couldn't wrap my mind around sharing her with another baby."


Aris, pg. 169


I had never been very close to Aris when I was a young girl in Mexico; our ten-year age difference made us have little in common. But now that I was a teenager, I could confide in my sister, and she was more than happy to listen and help.



Amber Picard & Abigail Kaye, 2020



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