Recent Work, News & Updates
Thrilled that my book about child migration to the United States, THE FAR AWAY BROTHERS, will be published by Crown in September - owing many thanks to many good people.
Read more about the book here.
Despite being less than two hours from Guatemala City, the lush and tropical capital of the country, the hills that curl through the Santa Rosa region where J.R. and his friends are from, look more like the brown, gasping loam of Northern California, where I’m from. This region is known as the “dry corridor,” and it stretches from southern Guatemala into northern Honduras and El Salvador. When I visited in January it hadn’t rained since October, and it likely won’t rain again until at least April, maybe May or June. The conditions in January were more like they should have been in April, in the last stretch of pre-rain: the soil dry and flaking, already thirsty for the rain still months away.
Read "Drought and Climate Change are forcing young Guatemalans to Flee to the U.S.", in The Huffington Post
"Is there not some way...to integrate schooling—the modern and government-mandated practice of children learning together, guided by a state-credentialed teacher—and education, the time-tested practice of learning from your surroundings and your family, as well as your community and its stories?"
My latest article for Orion Magazine about native communities' efforts to reclaim education on Alaska's North Slope.
My profile of San Salvador's young mayor, out in the most recent issue of VQR. (A slightly edited version subsequently appeared in The Guardian.) Thank you to the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting!
"At first glance, Bukele’s efforts—a Pop-Up Museum in the city center, launching a skateboard revolution, reorganizing the central market to offer walking paths and artists’ studios—seem like the unstudied pet projects of a rich kid whose internal logic reveals a starry-eyed worldview: Change the structural inequities, and peace and prosperity will follow. To do this requires not just money (Haiti, he points out, is still languishing in poverty despite several billion dollars in aid). More important is what he calls his “hidden project of inspiration,” the degree to which he can convince Salvadorans that their country has the potential for greatness. In Bukele’s estimation, projects like the city-center revitalization don’t just alter the physical reality of the city, but the relationship between citizens and the place they call home—and, by extension, their relationship with one another."
Thank you to the Mesa Refuge, where I was named the 2016 Michael Pollan Journalism Fellow, for two weeks of quiet, of "writing on the edge." Nothing quite like space and time and sunlight and birds and watching the tide slip across the mudflats to get some good work done. The book is finally taking shape, and I owe this to the Mesa Refuge.
The dump is a massive pit about one football field in diameter where trucks of private and municipal origin come to jettison the detritus of human existence. Dozens of workers — so-called “illegal migrants” from Guatemala — rifle through the castaways in hopes of finding something to salvage and sell. The workers dip into the crater of garbage using ladders made of found wood lashed with rope, then plunge their boots and gloved hands deep into the mess in search of valuables like tin cans, glass bottles, electronics. Each day they hew away at the crater, cramming anything of value into tall burlap bags, and every so often trucks come to tip more garbage in. Linda Vista is a never-ending churn.
VQR has just launched a very cool project using Instagram to render short, beautiful stories in words and images. My essay series "Northbound" features this summer's reporting from southern Mexico and El Salvador (generously funded by the French American Foundation's Immigration Journalism Fellowship). Follow @vqreview on Instagram to see more (including last week's breathtaking dispatches from rural India by Meera Subramanian.)
A few years ago, my mom and I came across a book of old photographs that documented the life of a small California town in the year preceding its drowning under a dammed lake. I've been haunted by these photographs ever since, and, as California heats up, dries out and searches for more water, the story of this old town feels all the more relevant. Here's my essay up in Guernica (one that's been kicking around in my brain for about eight years) about these photographs and California's long, tense and grasping relationship with water.
I'm honored to receive a 2015 Fund for Environmental Journalism Award from the Society of Environmental Journalists to report on indigenous education in rural Alaska. I spend most days immersed in education issues for young people relegated to the margins of urban life, and I'm so looking forward to learning more about the challenges and heroic work being done in the schools on the cold, glorious rim of our continent.