Milagros “Millie” Vargas never wanted to be the center of attention. As an immigrant to Texas, she doesn’t want people to know the path her family took to become citizens. In Where I Belong by Marcia Argueta Mickelson, Millie deals with the consequences, both positive and negative, of being an advocate. That doesn’t mean she is happy about it.
Millie’s mom works for the family of the wealthy aspiring senator Mr. Wheeler, and while Millie is trying to give him a message from her mom at one of his rallies, he uses her story as justification for his immigration policies, without seeking her permission. Suddenly, Millie becomes a target for anti-immigration groups and a desirable representative for those who are against detentions at the border. The consequences for Millie’s family are beyond significant and soon they have to rely on the family that put them in this situation in the first place.
Where I Belong gives Millie the opportunity to share how incredibly exhausting and even dangerous it can be to advocate for marginalized communities, particularly as a member of that community herself. While her voice is incredibly important, she also makes it very clear that she should not be the only person speaking out. Those with greater privilege, including Mr. Wheeler’s son, need to take these risks as well.
Readers will enjoy getting to know Millie and the other characters in Where I Belong. The complex issues this book tackles are accompanied by friendships, familial love, and romance. This book is timely and has the potential to inspire teen activists across the United States.
Learning for Justice Social Justice Standards:
Identity 5: I recognize traits of the dominant culture, my home culture, and other cultures, and I am conscious of how I express my identity as I move between these spaces.
Diversity 10: I understand that diversity includes the impact of unequal power relations on the development of group identities and cultures.
Justice 12: I can recognize, describe and distinguish unfairness and injustice at different levels of society.
Action 17: I take responsibility for standing up to exclusion, prejudice and injustice.