“I tell the stories of immigrants because I am a proud immigrant. The stories I strive to tell are the love stories of mothers and their children.”
— Paola Mendoza


It’s 2032, and in this near-future America, all citizens are chipped and everyone is tracked–from buses to grocery stores. It’s almost impossible to survive as an undocumented immigrant, but that’s exactly what sixteen-year-old Vali is doing. She and her family have carved out a stable, happy life in small-town Vermont, but when Vali’s mother’s counterfeit chip starts malfunctioning and the Deportation Forces raid their town, they are forced to flee.

Gripping and urgent, co-authors Paola Mendoza and Abby Sher have crafted a narrative that is as haunting as it is hopeful in envisioning a future where everyone can find sanctuary.

Best of lists:

  • A 2022 Garden State Teen Book Award Nominee (NJ)
  • A 2021-2022 Green Mountain Book Award Nominee (VT)
  • A 2021 Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year
  • A 2021 YALSA Best Fiction Book For Young Adults
  • A 2020 School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
  • A 2020 Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
  • A Teen Vogue Book Club Pick

“In their portrayal of Vali’s family’s quest for safety, the authors beautifully mirror the treacherous, painful, and terrifying treks involving natural and human threats that migrants to the U.S. undertake as they traverse continents and oceans…Wrenching and unmissable.”

— Kirkus

“Mendoza and Sher’s descriptions of emotional trauma are heart-wrenchingly raw. A story of survival and hope, Sanctuary is a gripping work of fiction, with a message about xenophobia that’s rooted in a scarily real world.”

— New York Times

“[This] stunning work of YA dystopian fiction . . . is a triumph in its genre and so politically astute that it sears.”

— School Library Journal

“The all-too-possible future in this suspenseful dystopian novel amplifies the undocumented immigrant experience in the U.S.”

— Booklist

Published Writings

Brave Teenage Refugees Seek a Home of the Free

The three teenagers at its center have grown up in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala, a smallish city overrun by drug dealers, violence and poverty.

I’ve been to the border. Here’s the best way to help

Every day someone asks me what they can do to help the refugees, migrants, children separated from their families, and people detained by ICE. Here is my answer.

Kerry Washington on Art As Activism and the Importance of “Staying Awake”

I first fell for Kerry Washington after watching her performance in Our Song, a beautiful independent film,
in 2001.

Real Stories From the Men, Women and Children Traveling on the Caravan

Photographer Kisha Bari and I traveled to Oaxaca, Mexico to join the caravan of Central American refugees traveling to the U.S. border in hopes of being granted asylum.

I Am A Child’ Photo Project Brings Attention to President Trump’s Attacks on Immigrants

Filmmaker and activist Paola Mendoza and photographer Kisha Bari worked together to produce the "I AM A CHILD" photo project.

Honoring Our Mothers, Who Sacrifice Everything for Us

This Sunday, thousands of children in Arizona will be too afraid to honor their mothers. They have been made to feel their mothers are not wanted here.