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Recent Work, News & Updates

Wednesday
Jun062018

"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
Monday
May212018

"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.

 

Thursday
Mar292018

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. 

Sunday
Mar252018

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." 

Wednesday
Mar212018

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.

Tuesday
Mar202018

J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize Finalist

Thrilled that The Far Away Brothers has been named a finalist for the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, which "recognizes superb examples of nonfiction writing that exemplify the literary grace, the commitment to serious research, and the social concern that characterized the distinguished work of the award's namesake, J. Anthony Lukas." 

Wednesday
Feb212018

LA Times Book Award Finalist

The Far Away Brothers is an LA Times Book Award Finalist in the Current Interest category. Hip, hip, hooray (and deeply honored). And also, the paperback (out in May) has a new cover. I'll miss the old one, but the new one is nice, too. 

 

Friday
Feb162018

This Route Doesn't Exist on a Map

My story in The New Republic on migrants from Africa & Asia making their way to South America by boat or plane, then heading north toward the U.S. border, overland. 

"One tragic lesson of the extra-continentales is that no set of governments, however callous, can solve the migration crisis by closing its doors to refugees seeking shelter. All Europe has done is redirect the flow of vulnerable humanity, fostering the development of a global superhighway to move people over this great distance. The doors will not hold, and neither will the fences. You can build a wall, but it will not work. Desperate people find a way.

'Cette route,' a French-speaking man from Cameroon told me, one sweltering afternoon in Tapachula on the breezeless balcony of a hotel frequented by irregular migrants, 'n’existe pas sur le map.' This route doesn’t exist on the map." Read more

Sunday
Feb112018

"If These Walls Could Talk"

My "Letter from Norway," in Harper's, about the strange and futile history of border fortifications, focusing on one of the smallest and yet heavily disputed border "walls" in the world, in arctic Norway.

"The Arctic town of Kirkenes, in Norway, is where land meets sea, where water meets ice, where taiga meets open tundra, where even the membrane between day and night is always shifting. There are days without darkness and other days when the sun barely glimmers at the horizon. The town sits on the border between Norway and Russia, a 121-mile line through rock, river, and permafrost. On a cold, clear day in late winter, I parked in a small lot near the Storskog border checkpoint, nine miles outside town on a well-paved road that cuts through the Arctic hinterlands. Across a frozen lake, I could see Russia, dappled with petite arctic birch and spruce. It looked just like Norway, except it had a sheen of magic simply for being an elsewhere."
https://harpers.org/archive/2018/03/if-these-walls-could-talk/

 

Sunday
Jan142018

No Place for 200,000 People To Go - NY Times Sunday Review

My Op-Ed on Trump's decision on Temporary Protective Status for Salvadorans, up in today's New York Times opinion section.

The violence in El Salvador today is a direct result of both American foreign policy during the Salvadoran civil war and the immigration policy immediately following. In vowing to send nearly 200,000 people back to a country plagued by violence, we seem destined to repeat the same mistakes, with consequences perhaps even more dire than before.

Alex Wroblewski for The New York Times