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Undocumented: A Dominican Boy’s Odyssey from a Homeless Shelter to the Ivy League

Dan El Padilla Peralta, Princeton

October 6, 2016 · 6:00 pm7:00 pm EDT · 116 Nassau Street

Labyrinth Books

We invite you to hear the story of an undocumented immigrant’s journey from a New York City homeless shelter to the top of his Princeton class and to join us in welcoming author Dan-el Padilla Peralta, who has just joined the Princeton faculty, back to town.

Dan-el Padilla Peralta has lived the American dream. As a boy, he came here legally with his family. Together they left Santo Domingo behind, but life in New York City was harder than they imagined. Their visas lapsed, and Dan-el’s father returned home. But Dan-el’s courageous mother was determined to make a better life for her bright sons. Without papers, she faced tremendous obstacles. While Dan-el was only in grade school, the family joined the ranks of the city’s homeless. Dan-el, his mother, and brother lived in a downtown shelter where Dan-el’s only refuge was the meager library. There he met Jeff, a young volunteer from a wealthy family. Jeff was struck by Dan-el’s passion for books and learning. With Jeff’s help, Dan-el was accepted on scholarship to Collegiate, the oldest private school in the country. There, he thrived. Throughout his youth, Dan-el navigated these two worlds: the rough streets of East Harlem, where he lived with his brother and his mother and tried to make friends, and the ultra-elite halls of a Manhattan private school, where he could immerse himself in a world of books and where he soon rose to the top of his class.

From Collegiate, Dan-el went to Princeton, where he made the momentous decision to come out as an undocumented student in a Wall Street Journal profile a few months before he gave the salutatorian’s traditional address in Latin at his commencement. Undocumented is a spell-binding story; it is also the perfect cri de coeur for the debate on comprehensive immigration reform.

Born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Dan-el Padilla Peralta came to the United States with his family at the age of four. He received his MPhil from the University of Oxford and his PhD in classics from Stanford University and will be joing the faculty of Princeton University’s Classics Department in fall of 2016.

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