One Book, One GSE 2023 selection examines immigrant, Filipino experiences in the U.S.

October 6, 2023

The One Book, One GSE initiative is back in full swing, and this year it’s encouraging the Penn GSE community to explore undocumented immigrant perspectives.

Now in its fourth year, the annual tradition brings together students, staff, and faculty for thought-provoking discussions and activities inspired by a shared book selection. The initiative is organized by Raquel Arredondo, Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) at Penn GSE.

This year, the chosen book is Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas. The memoir offers a deeply personal perspective on the experiences of undocumented immigrants in the U.S., especially Vargas’ own journey as an undocumented Filipino immigrant and his search for acceptance and belonging.

“By immersing ourselves in Dear America and the themes that emerge from this book, we hope to foster a greater sense of empathy, understanding, and unity within our community,” Arredondo said. “This experience will encourage us to think critically about immigration, identity, and the concept of inclusion in our diverse society.”

As part of the immersive One Book initiative, the Office of DEI hosted a screening of Documented (2013) on October 4th. The documentary, also by Jose Antonio Vargas, chronicles his journey from the Philippines to America as a child, his journey through America as an immigration reform activist, and his journey inward as he reconnects with his mother after two decades of separation.

The office also supported a talk on September 22 about the culture and history of Filipinos in Philadelphia by Dr. Rommel L. Rivera, Chair of the Filipino American Association of Philadelphia, Inc., and Vicky Aquino, Associate Director of Penn’s Pan-Asian American Community House (PAACH).

On October 18, the Human Resources and DEI offices will hold a School-wide lunch and discussion about this year’s One Book. All students, staff, and faculty are encouraged to participate.