The emotional experience of living as an immigrant is one of the hardest things to put into words, but sometimes easier to depict through art. Alberto Ledesma, an educator, activist and former undocumented student, uses graphic storytelling as a teaching tool to document the fears and hopes of the undocumented.
As a “practitioner of the doodle,” Ledesma’s Diary of a Dreamer tells immigrant stories with a style that bounces between loose-leaf sketches of awkward cultural clashes, and cerebral explorations of the social fissures of identity, youth and liminality.
Diary of a Dreamer
It was in the midst of a midterm I was administering at University of California at Berkeley two summers ago that I came up with the idea of writing and drawing my Diary of a Dreamer. The term was almost over and I still wanted to lecture about the emergent immigrant student movement and their pursuit of the Dream Act, especially given that I, too, had been an undocumented undergrad in the late 1980s. I considered sharing some of the stories, essays, and poems I had published about my experience. But there was so little time left left in the term and there was still so much else to cover. How could I get the students interested in what was happening without asking them to read so much? As the students finished their exams I scribbled on the back of my notebook a quick sketch about my dilemma. And then it hit me, why not use visual vignettes to convey the teachable points I was trying to make? Thus was born Diary of a Dreamer.
As an artist, I have long been a practitioner of the doodle. Comic books were the main tools with which I learned American culture when I was a an undocumented immigrant kid living in East Oakland. Now, they are what influence my art. That, and a compulsion to dig deeply into what the undocumented immigrant student story has entailed for me over all these years.
You can read more about Ledesma’s own experience as an immigrant father at New America Media.