Key Terms and Discussion Questions for Someone Like Me
(see U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for more information)
ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement): “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) serves as the principal investigative agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). ICE was created through a 2003 merger that combined the investigative and interior enforcement forces of the U.S. Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service” (Federal Law Enforcement).
Social Security Card: “Method used for maintaining permanent and accurate earnings records for each person working in employment covered by the Social Security program” (Social Security Administration).
Student Visa: “Method used for maintaining permanent and accurate earnings records for each person working in employment covered by the Social Security program” (Social Security Administration).
F Visa: “The F-1 Visa (Academic Student) allows you to enter the United States as a full-time student at an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or in a language training program. You must be enrolled in a program or course of study that culminates in a degree, diploma, or certificate and your school must be authorized by the U.S. government to accept international students” (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services).
M Visa: “The M-1 visa (Vocational Student) category includes students in vocational or other nonacademic programs, other than language training” (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services).
Visitor Visa: “nonimmigrant visas for persons who want to enter the United States temporarily for business ( B-1), for tourism ( B-2), or for a combination of both purposes (B-1 and B-2)” (U.S. Department of State).
Influence of Family
Julissa has deep rooted family values as she is seen doing so much with her family in mind. What do you think of Julissa’s drive and what or whom do you think she lives for? Does it change throughout the story?
Julissa’s sisters, Aris and Nay, are absent in large portions of the story, particularly after Julissa moves to Texas with her parents and younger brother. How might the sisters have responded to the absence of their siblings and parents and their family being divided between two countries?
How do you think her mother's accident impacted everyone emotionally? What does Julissa’s mom’s accident say about those who fight for American dream?
Julissa obviously had a very difficult and complicated relationship with her father, one that might have been easier to leave out of the memoir, or at least write less about. Why do you think she decided to spend so much of the book discussing her father, both the good moments and many bad ones? How do you think this dimension of her life helps explain her overall story?
Why might it be important for Arce to show her entire immigration story, rather than just focusing on her experiences in school and leaving out issues with her family? How might her story be used by those in opposition to illegal immigration to fit xenophobic stereotypes?
Julissa’s family took a lot of risks in order to try and succeed in life and with those risks resulted in the separation of a family, abuse, and strained relationships. Do you think that the risks taken were worth it or not?
Financial Security and the American Dream
What does it mean to be “American?”
Two recurring themes in this memoir are the American Dream and the importance of financial security. Do you think that financial success is essential to achieving the American Dream? Is financial success the American Dream? How does Julissa’s mother’s focus on financial success affect Julissa’s perception of the American Dream and later shape Julissa’s career goals?
What is Julissa’s “American Dream?” Does she achieve it?
What are some examples of the ways in which the realities of Julissa’s America are different from the idea of America that she envisions or hears about before she begins living in the United States?
The United States/Mexico border plays a major role in Julissa’s journey. What borders continue to stand between Julissa and her American Dream, even once she reaches America?
Julissa’s Mom, even at her most desperate, continues to believe that things will work out, as long as everybody works hard and does the right thing. Do you think Julissa would agree with this? After reading Julissa’s story, do you agree with it?
Julissa talks a lot about the American Dream and her journey towards fulfilling this dream throughout the book. Do you think the idea of the American Dream has influenced your life? If so, how? If not, why not? What is your “American Dream?”
Two Homes and Two Heritages
Someone Like Me is a story that involves a lot of movement, both on broader and smaller scales. For example, Julissa moves from Mexico to live with her parents in the US, they later move to a new house after cutting ties with Sam, and Julissa switches schools. How do you think this movement affected Julissa? How is she treated at school when she arrives in Texas?
What are some of the ways that Julissa finds personal connections to her state of Texas? How does this differ from her connection to her home in Mexico?
Growing up in the U.S., Julissa is the only person in her family who speaks English. What kinds of pressure do you think this puts on her? Do you think it’s fair that she has to handle this big responsibility on her own?
Why do you think it was cheerleading and sports that made Julissa feel so attached to America?
Julissa’s parents were not planning on telling her that her visa had expired, as it was only brought to Julissa’s attention when she was discussing her quinceanera. Do you feel that her parents were in the right by keeping this information to themselves or do you think that Julissa should have been given the info earlier? Why or why not?
What defines an American citizen/what makes someone American?
Julissa is constantly rejected from universities because she doesn’t have a social security number. She is even hesitant to call the police when her father is abusing her mother because of it. Do you think Julissa was defined by not having a social security number? Do you think we all, as citizens of America, are defined by a single number? What does this say, to you, about who you are?
At the end of the novel, the reader discovers that Julissa had to get a fake social security number and green card. Was it ethical for her to do this? What does this say about immigrants in the United States?
Importance of Education
Education is a big focus within the book. What role does education play within the process of Julissa moving to the United States and her adjustment to her new life?
Why is it so important to Julissa to go to a top program, like the business school at UT?
Julissa ends the book by saying that education opened the doors for her, and now she is committed to opening that door for others. What doors does education open? What doors can’t it open, and what opens those?
Jane Doe, John Doe, & Jack Appleseed, 2019
Videos to Show In-Class:
Julissa Arce discussing her middle-grade memoir "Someone Like Me":
Information regarding why people migrate:
"How I Found Out I'm an Undocumented Immigrant"
Lesson Plans and Activities:
Elementary-level exercises and discussion questions from Teaching Tolerance:
Exploring Young Immigrant Stories
Middle school-level teaching kits and worksheets from Junior Scholastic:
Junior Scholastic Teaching Kits: Immigration
Teaching Immigration with the Immigrant Stories Project:
The Advocates for Human Rights
Teaching Memoir in the Elementary School Classroom: A Genre Study Approach
Jane Doe, John Doe, & Jack Appleseed, 2019