The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life

The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American LifeWith all the talk about Trump, The Wall, and immigration policy, this book really reminded me that we can never just focus on the political side of a human issue like this I don t feel like I know what the answer is but I think we all need to keep our eyes open to the people and the reality of their suffering As I sit in a relatively upper class world with few significant problems, I am reminded of how lucky I was to be born where I was Not necessarily deserving Sometimes it s easy to lose sight of this Following these twins and getting to know their families, friends, and people who helped them was insightful and real People don t just want to leave their homes, families, country or culture They have to for survival The risks are unbelievably high Death, rape, abuse is a given, even expected Yet you have kids like these, trying not once, but often 7 8 times and getting caught, deported, suffering, but then going right back to try again Their families are thousands of dollars in debt from trying to help them escape Then on the other side, the U.S dollars spent is exorbitant Often going to private companies that are making tons of money I was glad to hear about the schools, social workers and lawyers that try to help However, the challenges they face with these kids is extreme This problem is so far reaching It s small minded and maybe insane to think that wall is the answer Markham does a great job at personalizing this issue She gives you a view of the varied nature of immigration and all its parts It is so relevant I am frankly surprised that this doesn t have a broader readership yet. This story deserves so much attention that it has gotten Lauren Markham was working in a California school when she came across the Flores twins names were changed , who found themselves forced to leave their piece of rural El Salvador because a local gangster a relative, in fact turned against them She has a fine sense of the deep and varied emotions they and their relatives felt in the United States and El Salvador, of the strange and often cruel intricacies of the American asylum system, of the pain that being poor in either country imposes on a family, especially among members who may never see each other again Her portraits of family members and places in both countries sound authentic, the piety and devotion of the parents, the raging emotions, hormones, and devotion to social media which gets them in great trouble of the younger members, the enormous pressure of gangs place on boys in El Salvador, the desperate, unrealistic reliance of the poor relations in the old country on the less poor children who have made it across The Flores twins have at least a route to staying in the country, having arrived barely as minors, while an older brother, having worked diligently for years, has none The most gripping portion of the book is the recounting of the twins journey to the United States, which is many of the themes that migrants often suffer but do not always care to reveal than the deprivation, the hunger, the thirst, the shoes and clothes that fall apart on the way, the corpses, but the violence and rape Markham brings this all together with a fine eye for detail and an understanding of the contradictory impulses and emotions not just between the members of the family, but within each of them She has a fine sense of the policy implications without every becoming didactic or polemical But there is no mistaking that what has happened in Mexico and Central America is a deep and disturbing tragedy, one funded by drug money from the United States, authored by gangs created by deportees from the United States, inflamed by weapons exported from the United States, and rooted in the United States policy, funding and military training in the region during the eighties, when El Salvador assassinated archbishops and nuns with impunity and Guatemala almost exterminated at least one Mayan tribe Yet these refugees, fleeing violence with virtually nothing, many of them women and children, are what the well fed, very comfortable, extremely well protected President and Attorney General, and their many retweeters, fear What fools some mortals be. The Deeply Reported Story Of Identical Twin Brothers Who Escape El Salvador S Violence To Build New Lives In California Fighting To Survive, To Stay, And To BelongGrowing Up In Rural El Salvador In The Wake Of The Civil War, Ernesto Flores Had Always Had A Fascination With The United States, The Faraway Land Of Skyscrapers And Nikes, While His Identical Twin, Raul, Never Felt That Northbound Tug But When Ernesto Ends Up On The Wrong Side Of The Region S Brutal Gangs He Is Forced To Flee The Country, And Raul, Because He Looks Just Like His Brother, Follows Close Behind Away From One Danger And Toward The Great American UnknownIn This Urgent Chronicle Of Contemporary Immigration, Journalist Lauren Markham Follows The Seventeen Year Old Flores Twins As They Make Their Harrowing Journey Across The Rio Grande And The Texas Desert, Into The Hands Of Immigration Authorities, And From There To Their Estranged Older Brother S Custody In Oakland, CA Soon These Unaccompanied Minors Are Navigating A New School In A New Language, Working To Pay Down Their Mounting Coyote Debt, And Facing Their Day In Immigration Court, While Also Encountering The Triumphs And Pitfalls Of Life As American Teenagers Girls, Grades, Facebook With Only Each Other For Support With Intimate Access And Breathtaking Range, Markham Offers A Coming Of Age Tale That Is Also A Nuanced Portrait Of Central America S Child Exodus, An Investigation Of US Immigration Policy, And An Unforgettable Testament To The Migrant Experience For those of us who live in comfortable surroundings in well ordered towns such as Berkeley, the day to day realities of life as experienced by undocumented migrants may be impossible to understand Most of what we know comes from news reports and occasional expos s about the efforts of the Trump Administration to expel what Right Wing politicians have insisted we call illegal immigrants In The Far Away Brothers, Berkeley journalist Lauren Markham brings the lived experience of two young Salvadoran migrants and their family under a spotlight The picture she paints is nuanced and moving as well as sobering.Identical twins Ernesto and Ra l Flores were seventeen years of age when, separately, they crossed the Rio Grande into Texas with the help of coyotes Though in so many ways their experience is unique, they also stand in for the tens of thousands of young Central Americans who flooded across our southern borders earlier in this decade and for many of the millions of Salvadorans, Hondurans, and Guatemalans who now reside in the United States Nearly all recent refugees from Central America were driven north by the gang violence and official corruption that are now endemic in the region However, as Markham makes clear, economic motives also loomed large Abject poverty conjures up visions of prosperity in El Norte among many Central Americans, as it does in many other people around the world.As I read about the often horrific circumstances that confronted the Flores brothers over the three year span described in the book, I couldn t help but think about the sharply contrasting experience of my father s parents, who emigrated from Russia early in the 20th century Their lives in the shtetl where they had lived, plagued by repeated pogroms, were at least as difficult as those of the Flores twins in El Salvador Also, it was no easy feat for them to make their way through the vastness of the European continent and then across the Atlantic in steerage But the welcome they received at Ellis Island, though decidedly chilly, was in no way comparable to the repeated violence and official hostility that met the Flores brothers both on their way and after their arrival.As the author makes clear, the massive migration of young Central Americans to the United States is, in a large sense, the consequence of US policy in the region throughout the 20th century, but especially in the 1980s In El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala alike, our government actively supported local efforts to stamp out local insurgents in the name of anti Communism murdering tens of thousands of peasants in the process Large numbers of young men fled to the US to escape that violence Many succumbed to the lure of crime and were imprisoned in California There, in prison and on the streets of Los Angeles, the most violent gangs that victimize Central America today were formed Mara Salvatrucha, or MS13, and Barrio 18 Today, these gangs are enormous, multinational criminal enterprises They re responsible for an outsized body count in our cities and a major share of drug trafficking in the US today In a real sense, then, we re paying the price of our government s intervention in Central America in the last century And so are tens of thousands of migrants from the region.The Far Away Brothers is Lauren Markham s first book, but the Berkeley author and journalist has been writing fiction, essays, and journalism for several years The book is based in part on her work at Oakland International High School since 2011, where the Flores brothers attended classes on and off, and generally on her thirteen years of experience working with, interviewing, and reporting alongside thousands of refugees and migrants like the Flores twins After reading The Far Away Brothers it s difficult to see how today s illegal immigrants are in any substantive way different from the Irish, Chinese, Italians, and Jews who made their way into the US in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.. Thanks to Crown Publishing for this free review copy Heartbreaking Timely Required reading for anyone looking to better understand the reasons that so many Central American citizens are fleeing their home countries to come to the United States The book is deeply researched and focuses equally on both sides of the border.if any person can read this book and not be deeply sympathetic to refugees looking for a safer life in the US, my heart aches for that reader s lack of humanity Not a fast read Not an easy read But a necessary one NOTE This book was published in September 2017 and as we all know, immigration policy in the US has changed since then Please take that into account while reading and don t let it impact your opinion of the overall story issue. This very timely story focuses on the travails of twin 17 year old brothers escaping from the gangs and violence of El Salvador to go north Their older brother their far away brother had crossed over about 7 years earlier and had managed to pay off the 6K that he owed to the coyote who accompanied him on the journey The price has gone up, and the twins each have to pay 6 7K Their large poor family can t raise that kind of money, so put up one of their plots of land as collateral The payment doesn t make their journey any less harrowing the coyote actually disappeared and left them on their own for part of the difficult trip When they arrive at the border, they are kept in the border camps for a while until they can sort out the paperwork and arrange with their older brother to taken them in They move in with him in his San Jose apartment, but the transition is far from smooth The boys move with their brother into a cramped, crowded apartment in Oakland affordable than San Jose , and enroll in Oakland International High School, where the author is on staff They have little English, and little knowledge of how anything works in California They both take part time jobs, and after a split with their brother move into a room in a house together and are responsible for all of their expenses It is hard to send money home to pay off the debt, with grows at a usurious interest rate of 20% They find a low cost attorney to help them navigate the immigration courts They get robbed and beat up, and miss too much school but they still feel that they are lucky to be here in the U.S away from the gangs, poverty and violence back home.The book is well researched and written Focusing on the plight of just these 2 boys and their families, both in the U.S and back in El Salvador, gives the story a very human and emotional core, while covering in a general way the challenges faced by all immigrants The situation in their home country is truly dire, and it is abundantly clear that just building a wall isn t going to solve the immigration problem Immigrants are risking their lives now to get into the U.S., and the wall will be just another of the many obstacles that they seek to overcome This, and similar works, should be required reading for anyone in our government seeking to craft a truly humane and just immigration system. 3.5 stars The Far Away Brothers is an account of the horrific life led by thousands in El Salvador It s about the issues and dangers lurking in and around the region and how the only option left for, what seems like, safety is to flee and make a new life for oneself on an alien land But does fleeing put an end to the miseries Families are left separated and broken They are forced to face injustice and ill treatment towards their kin and themselves The area, ruled by gangs, has only violence and death to offer So does the fleeing I was completely clueless about what these people go through until I read this book Now, I carry a perspective of and great fear for their lives When did humankind shrink to such a low The immigrants have lost almost everything they ve ever lived for, their family, home, livelihood everything They re forced to travel to alien places, another dangerous route, in hopes to restart their lives But instead of meeting people offering a hand to help or shelter, they face even cruelty and violence Many lose their lives, are raped or robbed off anything that was essential for them to survive the longest journey of their lives Many of these are as young as, or even younger, than the Flores twins seventeen And unaccompanied t s hard to even imagine children as young as them to first, face violence in their homeland and then all alone in an alien place Markham, who has experienced and studied a great deal about undocumented immigration for a decade, spent two years researching for this book She draws her experience from working with immigrant students at Oakland International High School She chose to write about twins to share stories about how each immigrant has their own feelings and lessons from their stories and how they ve been impacted As for my reading experience, the writing style is good and gripping However, I would ve enjoyed for lack of a better word it had it been a slightly less descriptive Having said that, the author was able to paint a real picture of what the protagonists were going through and it did change a lot of things for me for good My Blog Times of Gee Thank you Blogging for Books and Crown Publishing for a copy of this in exchange for an honest review. It s an interesting story the only reason I kept reading , but the writing was very bad 3 things annoyed me the most Way too much unimportant statistics made it seem like a research paper, at times No ending at all Too many unnecessary boring dialogs, details etc 3.75 stars Publishing on 9 12 17Thank you to First to Read for this ARC in return for an honest review This is an immigration story The story of seventeen year old Raul and Ernesto Flores who fled from El Salvador to Texas in 2013 It tells of the harrowing experience of life in El Salvador for these twins with their uncle trying to kill them and what their 7000 each bought them in the illegal trip through Mexico and into the United States It tells of their reunion with a older illegal brother, their loss of confidence in school while trying to learn the English language It tells of the pull of the gangster life and of young love The ups and downs, the highs and depressions of accumulating to a life they dreamed of, but barely understood Rent, food, school, work, sending money home to pay off their coyote fee It relates the hardships that their family, left in El Salvador, went through trying to pay back the loan shark and keep the farm land they loved and depended on And throughout everything else the entanglement of the judicial system, trying to become documented so they could remain in the United States This information was well researched and told in a story like setting It contained a number of facts relating to illegal immigration It speaks to the wall that Trump insists on building To the hundreds of immigrants that die on their way to what they believe is freedom in the United States What is left behind when someone immigrates and what is faced at the end of their journey If nothing else is achieved by reading this novel, it should be understood that it s not what immigrants are running to, but rather what are they running from To solve a problem one must understand what caused it and address its root causes That is a hard thing, requiring work and effort and creative thinking Why not just make the problem illegal We have been trying that and it does not seem to work Just say no to sex or drugs, prison sentences for drug possession, throwing a pregnant teenage daughter out of the house none of these ever solved anything.Illegal immigration has become the issue of the day under the present administration Migrants have been arrested, abused, sent back, and yet come Build a wall, we are told, that will keep them out I doubt it There is a reason why people leave their homeland and family, and the reasons are rarely trite.In her timely book The Far Away Brothers , Lauren Markham tells the story of the twin Flores brothers who flee El Salvador to join their undocumented migrant brother in America We learn about their lives in El Salvador, about their families, the challenges they faced on their journey north, and the multiple difficulties of their lives in the United States.Markham, who has reported on undocumented immigration for a decade, spent two years researching for this book, plus she draws from her experience working with immigrant students at Oakland International High School She chose to write about twins to illustrate how each immigrant has their own motivation and individual response to the experience.In the past the draw to the United States was for economic opportunity and security Today migrants leave their homes to escape the domination and violence of the gangs who have taken over power Last year 60,000 unaccompanied minors entered the United States, most from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador the murder capital of the world.When one of the Flores twins is targeted by their uncle s gang he decides he must leave to survive, and his twin brother joins him The boys family puts their livelihood at risk by offering the their land as security to raise money for transport to the border They falsely assume the debt can be paid off quickly once the boys get jobs, but the interest blows their debt up to 20,000.The journey leaves its psychic scars one twin has nightmares and cannot talk about what he had seen To stay in America the boys must be in school, under their older brother s authority Somehow they must also earn money to start paying off their debt to the coyotes They are teenagers, too, who are finally free and they don t always handle that freedom well Readers may not always like the boys, but hopefully they will understand their fears, confusion, and motivations.The author is not afraid to offer a paragraph on American policies that have contributed to the Central American catastrophe , by supplying weapons and by creating free trade deals that hurt small farmers Then there is the legacy of large corporations that bought up land for farming, controlling resources and the economic benefits.As Markham writes, People migrate now for the same reason they always have survival Investment in improving educational and economic opportunities, addressing the root causes of migration, would be a better use of federal funds than building a wall.I read Enique s Journey by Sonia Nazario about ten years ago Here is what she had to say about The Far Away Brothers Powerful Focusing primarily on one family s struggle to survive in violence riddled El Salvador by sending some of its members illegally to the U.S., this compellingly intimate narrative keenly examines the plights of juveniles sent to America without adult supervision.One of the most searing books on illegal immigration since Sonia Nazario s Enrique s Journey KirkusI received a free ebook through First to Read in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

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  • Hardcover
  • 320 pages
  • The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life
  • Lauren Markham
  • English
  • 09 October 2018
  • 9781101906187

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