Sometimes, the word ‘dream’ refers to the vivid images and sensations that the subconscious creates while one is asleep. Other times, ‘dream’ is an acronym: development, relief, and education for alien minors.
In the title Dream Things True, Marquardt uses the word dreams as “as a tribute to the extraordinary young adults who often refer to themselves as DREAMers.” They are people who were brought to the U.S. at a young age and have no way of getting permanent legal status under the current law.
“I’ve had the honor of getting to know many DREAMers over the years. They are amazing young adults with incredible stories,” said Marquardt. “This book captures a particular – and a particularly dark – moment in their history, but it also celebrates their remarkable resilience.”
Dream Things True follows Alma, an undocumented high school student with plans to attend college, and Evan, a wealthy Southern boy who tries hard to keep up appearances. When the two fall hard for each other, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement begins to invade their town and threaten to take away the life Alma has always known.
“Every piece of the story that deals directly with immigration is ‘true’ – in the sense that it was happening during the time when the story is set.”
Although the book is fictional, many of the scenes are inspired from actual situations. Marquardt is a college professor, researcher and advocate for immigration. She also runs El Refugio, a non-profit in Georgia that provides housing and other services for those visiting detained loved ones. “I have had the remarkable opportunity to witness undocumented kids growing into accomplished young adults facing enormous barriers.”
One barrier is that a good amount of the general public does not understand immigration law. This leads to a lot of misinformation and miscommunication. “The [thing]I hear most often is ‘Why don’t [undocumented immigrants]just get in line like my parents / grandparents / great-grandparents did?’ For most undocumented immigrants living in the United States, there simply does not exist a ‘line,’” said Marquardt. “What I mean is that, under current laws, they have no pathway to legal residency.”
The main focus of the novel is Alma’s undocumented status and how it affects every single aspect of her life. But it doesn’t just affect her – it also affects Evan. Although the characters are affected by the law differently, they are evenly exposed to the difficulties and struggles that thousands of people go through every day.
While the characters’ difficulties and contrasting lives have some dubbing the story “a modern-day Romeo and Juliet story,” the love in Marquardt’s novel is a different level of powerful. Dream Things True captures love on the entire spectrum – falling in love with someone despite hardships; loving a family member even when she doesn’t show affection; and forgiving and learning to love a friend despite his past.
“Love is more powerful than fear,” wrote Marquardt in her website bio, a saying that Marquardt has seen come true time and time again throughout the years as a volunteer with El Refugio. “They have so much to fear. But week after week, they make hard decisions that put their love for their spouses, siblings, and children ahead of their fear of an unknown future.”
“I have learned so much from these families about how to love fiercely.”
But it’s not just about loving close relatives and friends fiercely, or learning how to love those close to you. It’s also about seeing all people “as human beings deserving of love and respect.”
If that’s one thing people get out of Marquardt’s book, she’ll be happy.