American by Paper is a book about the consequences of papers—visas, green cards, and passports—for immigrant literacy. For immigrants, papers can mean the difference between family reunification and separation, a living wage and poverty, and sometimes life and death. Documented and undocumented, all 40 million migrants currently living in the U.S. must deal with papers. They often do so through everyday acts of writing. An ethnographic study, American by Papertells the story of how migrants write to attain papers, how they write when they cannot attain papers, and how their writing can function as papers. It describes how migrants in two communities—one from the Azores, largely documented, and one from Brazil, largely undocumented—come to experience literacy not as a means of assimilation, as educational policy makers often believe, nor as a means of empowerment, as literacy scholars often hope, but instead as enmeshed in papers, those authoritative bureaucratic objects that are the currency of highly literate societies and that powerfully regulate transnational lives.