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Sunday
Jul292018

"An American Nightmare"

Thank you, deeply, to The New York Review of Books for this stunning, generous review of The Far Away Brothers.

"Lauren Markham is everything that Donald Trump is not—empathetic, honest, painstakingly factual, thoughtful, and fair. Her beautifully written book, The Far Away Brothers, follows Ernesto and Raúl Flores, seventeen-year-old twins, from a Salvadoran village ruled by gangsters from MS-13 to a high school in Oakland, where she served as their counselor. It can be read as a supplement to the current news, a chronicle of the problems that Central Americans are fleeing and the horrors they suffer in flight. But it transcends the crisis. Markham’s deep, frank reporting is also useful in thinking ahead to the challenges of assimilation, for the struggling twins and many others like them.

"As it relates to the border crisis, the story reinforces the liberal view: the boys, who arrived in the US in 2013, are running from violence, not just poverty. They are more like refugees than economic migrants, though legally they don’t qualify for refugee status. They’ve been through hell. But they are not the striving overachievers that supporters of immigration tend to envision. Their harrowing journeys have left them traumatized. They are volatile, distrustful, and depressed. Both screw up in school, neither learns much English, and one drops out and becomes a teenage parent. People wary of immigration could read the story as a cautionary tale of its risks and costs.

"It is a testament to Markham’s narrative skill that she keeps the reader pulling for her troubled characters while faithfully recording their blunders. They are just teens—two young men courageous enough to run from gang violence rather than join it. While they arrive in the US with the wounds of their journey, they also bring a ferocious work ethic. Markham’s reporting is intimate and detailed, and her tone is a special pleasure. Trustworthy, calm, decent, it offers refuge from a world consumed by Twitter screeds and cable news demagogues. The Far Away Brothers is a generous book for an ungenerous age."

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