From Homeless Shelters to a Doctorate: How Dominican Writer Dan-El Padilla Peralta Made it in America

Lead Photo: Damon Winter for the New York Times
Damon Winter for the New York Times
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Dan-el Padilla Peralta, 30, arrived to the United States with his mother as a 4-year-old, and in his 26 years in this country, he’s gone from homeless shelters to studying at Princeton, Oxford, and a doctorate degree from Stanford. Now, he’s telling his story in the new book “Undocumented: A Dominican Boy’s Odyssey From a Homeless Shelter to the Ivy League.”

Peralta, who currently works as a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University, spent most of his childhood as an undocumented immigrant, worried that he’d be caught and deported to the Dominican Republic. “The drumming of papeles was the background music to my life,” he told the New York Times.

Peralta may have wanted to hide before, but now he wants to keep the immigrant policy discussion going. His story is a compelling example of why reform for DREAMers is so needed. Despite a difficult life in the U.S., Peralta’s mother made the decision to remain in NYC when she saw how much her son was excelling in school. The moving and inspiring success story chronicled in this memoir – which, taking a page from Junot Diaz’s writing style, seamlessly transitions from slang to academic prose and from Plato to pop culture references – is a must read.

Check out more about his interesting journey here.