Julissa Arce is a writer, immigrant rights advocate, and nationally best-selling author. Her writing has also appeared in the New York Times, TIME Magazine, CNN, CNBC, Vogue and other outlets. Her forthcoming third book Rejecting Assimilation is a manifesto against the ways America demands assimilation yet denies belonging, and a rallying cry to preserve and celebrate our unique cultures, values, and vision to create space to truly be ourselves.
Julissa is one of the featured authors at this year's Los Angeles Libros Festival, a free bilingual book festival for the whole family. L.A. Libros Fest for Teens and Adults will be streamed live on YouTube.
What does heritage mean to you? How do you identify and why?
Heritage is the gift our ancestors and family have given us. It's in our names, our food, our culture, and our history. I have recently started using all my names, including my middle name, Natzely. It means what I most love. For a long time, I stopped asking people to say it because they had a hard time pronouncing it. But I realized I was actively rejecting this beautiful gift my parents gave me. So now, I am Julissa Natzely Arce Raya.
¿Piensas regularmente en inglés o en español? ¿Cuál prefieres?
I think in both English and Spanish. I dream in two languages. I feel very lucky to be able to switch back and forth and to have access to double the vocabulary to express myself. There are so many words that don't translate y qué hermoso es poder hablar en dos idiomas.
We have such deep roots in this country that many of us don't know about. Every day we are contributing to this country with our labor, our creativity, with our lives. I believe it's my purpose to keep the light shining on us.
How does your heritage inspire your creativity?
My next book, Rejecting Assimilation (Flatiron, 2021) is fully inspired by my quest to reclaim my heritage—everything that I lost in trying to assimilate to the "American" culture. In learning the history of our people, which dates back centuries, I have understood that belonging does not come from assimilation.
¿Cuál es el regalo más grande que te ha brindado tu herencia?
The greatest gift que mi herencia me ha dado is a place to belong. A place to be fully, authentically, myself.
How do you preserve your heritage as a writer?
Much of my work is about unearthing untold stories of our people—both the stories of the past, our history, y las historias de hoy that often go unnoticed. We have such deep roots in this country that many of us don't know about. Every day we are contributing to this country with our labor, our creativity, with our lives. I believe it's my purpose to keep the light shining on us.
Books by Julissa Arce
Julissa llegó a los Estados Unidos cuando tenía solo 9 años y aunque era muy inteligente, no era así cómo se sentía en su nueva escuela. Una historia impresionante de la activista social y autora de éxito nacional Julissa Arce sobre su niñez en Texas y su lucha por alcanzar su sueño americano, aun siendo indocumentada. La autora cuenta a los lectores que todo es posible a pesar de tu estatus.