Recent Work, News & Updates


Review in El Faro

Thanks to El Faro for this lovely, generous review of The Far Away Brothers. I admire El Faro's work tremendously, and relied on their dogged, masterful reporting for key sections of my book. 


"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."


Northern California Book Award

Honored to learn that The Far Away Brothers is this year's winner of the Northern California Book Award in Creative Nonfiction. Thank you, Northern California Book Reviewers & Poetry Flash!


Climate Change & Forced Migration

My newest Opinion Piece in the New York Times on the intersection between climate change and forced migration (and how we need to get serious about both). 




California Book Award - Silver Medal

So honored that The Far Away Brothers was named the California Book Award Silver Medal in Nonfiction - alongside and in the wake of so many authors I admire. Thank you to the Commonwealth Club and the team of jurors, who had their work cut out for them. Basking in the home state love...  



"For Me, With Love and Squalor"

A new essay up at Longreads about the thrills and heartaches of publishing a book - and how easy it was for me to lose track of why I wrote it in the first place. (And thanks to Matt Chinworth for the gorgeous illustration, below).

"There’s a particular, throbbing delight in quietly scanning the shelves of a bookstore, coming upon old favorites — that familiar stab of desire, like running into a former lover on the street — and encountering new possibilities, those unfamiliar spines that claw with the promise of companionship, maybe temporary, maybe forever. Browsing is the reader’s act of optimism and longing: There is something on this shelf that will help me remember magic; some act of grace will deliver it into my hands, and I will be permanently, quietly changed.

But here comes the craven author, belonging to a profession that’s one part thrill and many parts heartbreak, marching into the bookstore: Where is my name, where is my name, where is my name? I’m not alone; every new author I know admits to this urge.

And what act, energetically speaking, could be more opposite to the compulsion to write in the first place: to scratch away, alone in the blissful, seething dark, and make something?" Read more

Drawing by Matt Chinworth

"How 'Trial by Skype' Became the Norm in Immigration Court"

For detained immigrants, "attending" immigration proceedings via videoconference is the increasing norm. It's cheaper and logistically easier for the government; unsurprisingly, it also means worse outcomes for immigrants in court. Thanks to Mother Jones for letting me tell this story.



California Book Award Finalist

The Far Away Brothers has been named a finalist for the California Book Awards, which "recognize the state’s best writers and illuminate the wealth and diversity of literature written in California." Deeply honored to be recognized in this way by my beloved home state. 


The Far Away Brothers named the winner of the 2018 Ridenhour Book Prize

Deeply honored that The Far Away Brothers has been awarded the 2018 Ridenhour Book Prize. Ridenhour Prizes "recognize those who persevere in acts of truth-telling that protect the public interest, promote social justice or illuminate a more just vision of society." The Book Prize "honors an outstanding work of social significance from the prior publishing year. The prize also recognizes investigative and reportorial distinction." 


Gangs in the USA

"A Chronic Case of Know-Nothing Amnesia," up today at Lapham's:

While MS-13 has taken center stage in our national discourse, the criminal groups of yore have become legend, cult figures, thrilling antiheroes. A gang is nothing if not fundamentally American; consider the outlaws of the West, the pioneers (those decimating forces), the bands of stagecoach robbers, the mob, all deeply embedded in American consciousness. We now glorify yesterday’s outlaw cultures—see Gangs of New YorkDeadwood—while continuing to vilify the newest outlaws and insist that, if not barred from entering our country, they will be our nation’s downfall. Race and who is considered a minority outsider have something to do with it. The Italian and Irish Americans who were once kept out of country clubs and barred from entering the country in too large numbers are no longer ill-considered minorities in the U.S. but, rather, part of the white majority. The cycle of excluding, marginalizing, and vilifying the newest groups of young immigrants continues with a retrograde abandon and scorn. We move predictably on to other targets of darker skin.

As much as “bad immigrants” are endlessly covered in the press, their eventual and invisibly slow conscription into the war against outsiders is a pervasive, if hardly remarked upon, phenomenon. Once the slandered immigrants of yesterday have been brought into the folds of today’s white majority, society turns them into heroes and finds new bad guys to take their place. For those of us from white immigrant or “model minority” backgrounds, it’s easy to succumb to historic amnesia, forgetting that we, too, were once the maligned newcomer.