Before becoming a household name for starring in hit TV shows like Ugly Betty, America Ferrera struggled to feel seen. As a child born in Los Angeles to Honduran immigrants, the award-winning actress and political activist is more than just a little familiar with what it means to navigate between worlds — a personal motivation that led to the creation of her new anthology American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures.
What does it mean to have one’s identity inextricably linked to more than one culture? American Like Me attempts to answer this question by featuring a collection of vibrant essays from acclaimed artists like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Issa Rae, Roxane Gay, Uzo Aduba, and more. The compilation follows the stories and struggles of prominent actors, comedians, athletes, politicians, artists, and writers, and their yearning to discover a sense of self and belonging.
America is America
In many ways, Ferrera represents an ever-growing population and identity that is often not reflected in the larger American narrative. In an interview with co-hosts on The View, the 34-year-old explained her own ambivalence. “I grew up feeling not American enough, but also not Latina enough,” she said. “You’re both, but you’re also neither.”
Through the anthology’s heartfelt and hilarious essays, the personal becomes political: “Having parents with deep ties to another country and culture feels part and parcel of being an American,” Ferrera writes in the book’s intro. She claims that her own memories of Saturday-morning-salsa-dance-parties in the kitchen and eating tamales alongside her apple pie at Christmas don’t conflict.
These stories, the actress insists, aren’t about immigrant experiences — they are quintessentially American experiences. A reality that exists for millions of people across the United States. “I was shocked that a book like this didn’t already exist,” she noted.
America for America
As an outspoken advocate and unflinching supporter for human and civil rights, the actress doesn’t shy away from hard truths. Not only did she participate as the opening speaker at the Women’s March on Washington in 2017, she’s also the co-founder of HARNESS, an organization that connects communities through conversation around social justice.
Ultimately, for Ferrera, part of the inspiration behind the anthology is so that anyone with a complicated relationship to family, culture, and personal identity, can feel seen. “This compilation of personal stories, written by people I deeply admire and fangirl out about on the regular, is my best answer to my nine-year-old self,” her intro reads. “My plan is to find a time machine and plop this book in her hands at the very moment she first thinks, What do I call an American like me?”