First Name Unknown: A Benefit Reading
Thursday, Jun. 21, 7 p.m.
Cocoa Cinnamon (Lakewood), Durham

Now more than ever, we need to think about how we treat immigrants in this country. I think that starts by listening. We only fear what we don’t understand, and for me, the best way to understand anything is to listen to someone else’s story.

At seven o’clock tonight, the Lakewood Cocoa Cinnamon will host Deborah Augustin, a Malaysian-born author who will read an excerpt from her lyrical essay, “First Name Unknown,” which explores themes of immigration, identity, and labels. She will also sell copies of the full essay to help raise money for So Good Pupusas, a local Salvadoran food truck that works in partnership with the nonprofit Pupusas for Education to provide scholarships to students who are undocumented or DACA recipients to attend any higher education institution or program.

After attending the inaugural Pupusas 4 Education gala, Augustin felt inspired by its mission and how it aligns with her values of making higher-education accessible to those without resources. She reached out to see how she could help. Sharing her story seemed like a logical place to start.

Augustin was born and raised in Malaysia. She came to the U.S. in 2009 to pursue a liberal arts degree at Sarah Lawrence College, returned home for a year and a half, and then returned in 2015 to obtain a master’s degree in fine art at Western Michigan University. While studying there, she got a brief taste of what it’s like to be undocumented in this country. After she accidentally missed paying a fee associated with her student visa, she promptly received a letter informing her that her F1 student visa status had been terminated.

“I couldn’t leave the country, and going through the process of trying to get reinstated coincided with an increasingly hostile environment [toward] immigrants and how they’re treated,” Augustin says. “In my situation, there was a clear path to getting reinstated and regaining documented status. But that’s not true for most people who are undocumented. I wanted to use this work to help people who are in that situation who don’t have a clear path, and who may face more challenges to getting documented status.”

During the reading, So Good Pupusas will be selling its signature pupusas, thick handmade tortillas filled with different combinations of meat, cheese, and beans; as with all its food sales, a portion of the proceeds will go towards their P4E Scholarships. Augustin will also sell copies of her complete essay for a suggested donation of $10, with all proceeds going to So Good Pupusas’ scholarship program.

For more information, visit Pupusas for Education’s Facebook event page.