the far away brothersBy Lauren Markham, author of The Far Away Brothers (Broadway Books, May 2018)

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For the past decade, I’ve worked at a high school for immigrant students in Oakland, California. The school is a delayed mirror of world events; as people flee conflict and catastrophes the world over—from Syria, Afghanistan, Burma, Mexico, the DRC—some of the displaced inevitably make it to our school. One day in February of 2014, a co-worker introduced me to two dispirited young men: identical twins. Several months earlier, they’d left their parents and siblings behind in El Salvador, crossing through Guatemala, Mexico, and the Texas desert all on their own. Now they were terrified of being deported. (more…)

Pulitzer Prize-winning Sonia Nazario, author of Enrique’s Journey, recently addressed the United Nations about how to better manage global migration as part of the UN’s Panel Discussion on International Migration and Development.

While the UN emphasized how migration spurs positive development both in countries that receive and in those that send migrants, Nazario’s focus was different. Instead, she talked about how too many migrants, especially women, feel forced to leave their homelands and children to go abroad in order to survive, and how child-mother separations produce devastating consequences for families and society. She urged developed countries to focus on creating jobs in specific migrant-sending countries so more migrants can stay home—where most would rather be.

Nazario’s book, Enrique’s Journey, tells one personal story of global migration, as it follows the path of a Honduran youth named Enrique who journeys to the United States in search of his mother.  The book has become a common read selection for over 100 high schools and colleges.

The author’s recommendations on how developed countries like the United States can help keep more migrants at home drew praise throughout the day from panelists, member states, and representatives of non-governmental organizations in the audience. The representative for the United Methodist Women said thousands of their members had read Enrique’s Journey as part of their book club, and urged the UN to follow the recommendations Nazario outlined. An organizer of the conference later wrote to say: “Your presentation was very moving and opened our eyes.”

The meeting was designed to prepare UN delegates for a session in October where the UN hopes to make immigration policy decisions.

Click here for a video of Sonia’s UN talk (Nazario appears at 23:50).
Click here for more information about Enrique’s Journey.
Click here to visit the author’s website.

Photo by David Ebershoff

Photo by David Ebershoff

UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

UN Video

UN Video

Let the Great World Spin HCNew York Times writer Joel Lovell has written a thoughtful piece on Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin (Random House), which won the National Book Award, and a new novel, TransAtlantic (Random House, June 2013).  Titled “Colum McCann’s Radical Empathy,” the profile is set in the recent aftermath of the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy as McCann travels to the afflicted school to speak to the high school students upon a teacher’s request.   It delves into the value of Let the Great World Spin (which was added to the Newtown high school curriculum) as a transcendent history that can ease the pains of tragedy, “a book that,” Newtown teacher Lee Keylock says, “might help their students begin to make sense of their terrible shock and grief.”  From there, the article moves into McCann’s own life, crossing briefly into McCann’s childhood in Ireland, to his desire as a writer to work in “the blurred spaces between fiction and nonfiction.”  Granting insight into McCann’s humor, gravity, and ambition, the piece permits a glimpse into the life of the man who writes, while “‘in the cupboard,'” about the magnitude of the world.

Click here to read the full New York Times article.

Click here for more information about Colum McCann.

Click here for information about the author’s speaking engagements.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

I knew that my novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, was making its way onto high school reading lists when curious emails began popping up in my inbox. They tended to go something like this:

“Um, you know, your book, Motel on the Corner of Sweet and Sour—dude, it’s like m favorite novel of all time!! And I’m kinda wondering if you could, like, answer these twelve questions for me? (In my mind, I always hear this question coming from a nasally, voice-cracking, pre-pubescent 14-year-old boy wearing a Hot Topic hoodie with his ear buds in, listening to “Bring Me the Horizon”).

And just like that, I was suddenly someone’s homework. Right up there with Of Mice and Men, the Pythagorean Theorem, and building dioramas out of old shoe-boxes and craftpaper.

To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure how my novel would be received.

So then I asked myself why so many students embrace books like The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird—because they’re amazing novels? Sure. But moreover, these are books with young protagonists. They offer voices that are readily absorbed by the intrepid imaginations of young adults. (more…)

Outcasts United by Warren St. John

For the better part of a hundred years, Clarkston, Georgia—a community of 7,100 on one square mile of land east of downtown Atlanta—was a mostly white town where little of interest happened. In the early 1990’s, the town was designated as a resettlement center for refugees from around the world, and refugees poured in from Southeast Asia, the Balkans, Africa and the Middle East. In less than a decade, little Clarkston, Georgia transformed into one of the most diverse communities in the country.

Outcasts United is the story of this town, told through the lens of a soccer team of refugee boys called the Fugees, a team founded and coached by an American-educated, Jordanian born volunteer named Luma Mufleh. The team and its remarkable coach ultimately provide the rest of us with powerful lessons about how to create community in places where everyone is different. (more…)

Enrique's Journey by Sonia Nazario

by Sonia Nazario, author of Enrique’s Journey

President Obama has vowed that he will soon raise the issue of immigration reform anew, likely igniting heated debates in homes around the country.

Yet in many high schools nationwide, teachers have already sought to help students better understand their newly arrived neighbors through discussions of Enrique’s Journey. Already, scores of high schools from Bay Shore, New York to Santa Monica, California—places that have seen a sudden surge of newcomers from other countries—have used my book about one Central American boy’s quest to reach his mother in the U. S. to take students inside the world of migrants, a world many know little about.

My visits to high schools all over the country have led to incredibly interesting and moving encounters with students, who reveal different responses to my book. (more…)