Tag Archives: immigrants

** The Making of a Dream by Laura Wides-Muñoz

The Making of a Dream: How a group of young undocumented immigrants helped change what it means to be American follows five undocumented teenagers and your adults that fought for legal protection, sometimes clumsily, but eventually successfully as embodied in the DACA policy (until the Trump presidency ended it). The book does a good job of showing the  pitfalls and compromises of DACA, in particular the many categories of people who were left out (anyone who was not in high school or college, for instance) and the rifts it created amongst the many so-called “mixed-status” families, where parents or older siblings would not be eligible but younger siblings could be.  It also shows how President Obama, who did approve the policy, saw its limits very clearly: why focus on in-country immigrants when so many others may want to come, too? And why use a policy when it’s really the entire immigration process that needs reforming — and is still no reformed. An interesting, albeit limited history.

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Filed under Non fiction

*** The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantu

The author of The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border served several years in the Border Patrol, finding undocumented immigrants and processing them for repatriation — and all too often finding bodies. He shows how desperate the migrants are and how determined they are to cross the border. After he leaves the Border Patrol because he cannot embrace the mission any longer–but continues to be involved in the immigration legal system to help a friend.

The best parts of the book are when he describes his experience, whether in the field, at headquarters, or in a courtroom. I could have done without the socio-political dissertations.

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Filed under Non fiction

* Immigrant, Montana

Are you interested in the lives of foreign Humanities doctorate students slaving as teaching assistants? Think lots of big ideas, lots of sex and especially thoughts about sex, culture shock, infatuation with various professors — and not much action towards theses of anything else that could be construed as constructive. (I’m not commenting on humanities doctorate students per se, but rather on the book). My eyes glazed over as I read Immigrant, Montana.

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Filed under New fiction

*** Dear America by Jose Antonio Vargas

Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen is a memoir and book-length argument in favor of immigration reform. The author was sent to the US at age 12 to live with his (documented) grandparents with the hope of a better future. Things worked out well for him: he attended a good high school and was able to take advantage of generous financial help to attend college, but proper paperwork proved elusive and a talented journalist finds himself with no legal avenue to regularize his situation — although, interestingly and despite (or perhaps because of) his fame, he has not been deported. I would have preferred more of a focus on his personal history and less political commentary, but it’s important to show how productive individuals are left in limbo because of decisions made long ago by their parents.

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Filed under True story

** The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea

The patriarch in The House of Broken Angels, Big Angel, is burying his mother and celebrating what he expects to be his last birthday in the same week. Around him his vast family swarms, full of colorful characters and the occasional gang member. The story stretches back to Big Angel’s poor childhood in Mexico and his illegal border crossing, how he met his wife and adopted her childcare, and how they all turned out. It’s a rich family saga with lots of unlikely situations and relationships. It did not quite jell into a masterful whole for me, with a little too much repetition and descriptions that stayed superficial — rather like a family reunion, actually. But it’s fun.

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Filed under New fiction

** The Parking Lot Attendant by Nafkote Tamirat

The Parking Lot Attendant is a charismatic hustler who, for now, runs various illegal schemes from a Boston parking lot, within and outside the Ethiopian immigrant community there, but has bigger ambitions. The girl-narrator describes how she falls under his initial benign, even kind influence, but slowly becomes an accomplice. I thought the description of her relationship with the parking lot “attendant” was mesmerizing — but the ending in the island commune seemed way too improbable.

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** Tears of Salt by Pietro Bartolo and Lidia Tilotta

The first author of Tears of Salt: A Doctor’s Story is a physician on the small Italian island of Lampedusa, where many migrants from Africa arrive, some healthy and others almost or completely dead, as they try to reach Europe. He gets to treat the sick and autopsy the dead, and often sees the children, relatives, and friends of the people he so recently pronounced dead. It’s not an easy life, and it’s not an easy story. The solution to the problem cannot be as simple as what he seems to suggest (open the border) and at the same time the personal stories are heart-wrenching.

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Filed under True story