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We Were Illegal

Uncovering a Texas Family's Mythmaking and Migration

Author Jessica Goudeau On Tour
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An award-winning author's deep exploration of pivotal moments in Texas history through multiple generations of her own family, and a ruthless reexamination of our national and personal myths

Seven generations of Jessica Goudeau’s family have lived in Texas, and her family’s legacy—a word she heard often growing up—was rooted in faith, right-living, and the hard work that built their great state. It wasn’t until her aunt mentioned a stowaway ancestor and she began to dig more deeply into the story of the land she lives on today in suburban Austin, that Goudeau discovered her family’s far more complicated role in Texas history: from a swindling land grant agent in the earliest days of Anglo settlement that brought slavery to Mexican land, up through her Texas Ranger great-uncle, who helped a sociopathic sheriff cover up mass murder. 

Tracking her ancestors’ involvement in pivotal moments from before the Texas Revolution through today, We Were Illegal is at once an intimate and character-driven narrative and an insider’s look at a state that prides itself on its history. It is an act of reckoning and recovery on a personal scale, as well as a reflection of the work we all must do to dismantle the whitewashed narratives that are passed down through families, communities, and textbooks. And it is a story filled with hope—by facing these hypocrisies and long-buried histories, Goudeau explores with us how to move past this fractured time, take accountability for our legacy, and learn to be better, more honest ancestors.

Jessica Goudeau is the author of After the Last Border: Two Families and the Story of Refuge in America, which won the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, a Christopher Award, and was named a New York Times Editors’ Choice book. She has been a columnist for Catapult and written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, and Washington Post, among many other places. She produced short documentaries distributed by Teen Vogue and The New Yorker about young women crossing borders. She has a PhD in literature from the University of Texas and teaches Creative Nonfiction at Wilkes University. View titles by Jessica Goudeau

About

An award-winning author's deep exploration of pivotal moments in Texas history through multiple generations of her own family, and a ruthless reexamination of our national and personal myths

Seven generations of Jessica Goudeau’s family have lived in Texas, and her family’s legacy—a word she heard often growing up—was rooted in faith, right-living, and the hard work that built their great state. It wasn’t until her aunt mentioned a stowaway ancestor and she began to dig more deeply into the story of the land she lives on today in suburban Austin, that Goudeau discovered her family’s far more complicated role in Texas history: from a swindling land grant agent in the earliest days of Anglo settlement that brought slavery to Mexican land, up through her Texas Ranger great-uncle, who helped a sociopathic sheriff cover up mass murder. 

Tracking her ancestors’ involvement in pivotal moments from before the Texas Revolution through today, We Were Illegal is at once an intimate and character-driven narrative and an insider’s look at a state that prides itself on its history. It is an act of reckoning and recovery on a personal scale, as well as a reflection of the work we all must do to dismantle the whitewashed narratives that are passed down through families, communities, and textbooks. And it is a story filled with hope—by facing these hypocrisies and long-buried histories, Goudeau explores with us how to move past this fractured time, take accountability for our legacy, and learn to be better, more honest ancestors.

Author


Jessica Goudeau is the author of After the Last Border: Two Families and the Story of Refuge in America, which won the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, a Christopher Award, and was named a New York Times Editors’ Choice book. She has been a columnist for Catapult and written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, and Washington Post, among many other places. She produced short documentaries distributed by Teen Vogue and The New Yorker about young women crossing borders. She has a PhD in literature from the University of Texas and teaches Creative Nonfiction at Wilkes University. View titles by Jessica Goudeau