Recent Work, News & Updates


"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."



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


The Far Away Brothers longlisted for a Pen American Award

A huge honor: https://pen.org/2018longlists/


The Last Fire, and the Next One

My story in Places Magazine about the changing landscape of disaster, and living in fire country. 

When you feel like you’ve lost everything, the insurance company makes you write it all down. Donna Taylor’s home in Northern California burned two years ago, along with the homes of her mother and her neighbors and nearly everyone in Anderson Springs. Donna was lucky — she and her family lived, and she had insurance — but now she had to present a full accounting of the loss. Every piece of furniture, every pair of pants, every bobble and jewel. Where do you even begin? 


Q&A with Mother Jones


The Wrong Way to Fight Gangs

My Opinion piece in the NY Times on the importance of investing in education for newcomer youth.  

"Central America’s endemic violence is not going away anytime soon, so, like it or not, these young people will keep coming, regardless of the walls we build or the immigration policies we enact. Excluded and disenfranchised young people seek inclusion elsewhere: on the margins, in the shadows, in society’s dark underbelly. Gangs provide that sense of belonging, along with a feeling of success and upward mobility, for those who are not offered the same in mainstream society."

Students participating in Soccer Without Borders after school programming. Photo by Monica Almeida, NY Times.


NY Times Book Review

Today's review of The Far Away Brothers:

"One of the finest virtues of “The Far Away Brothers” is that it makes vibrantly real an issue that some see only as theoretical, illuminating aspects of the immigrant experience normally hidden from view. The obstacles the twins faced in getting their visas could be paradoxical, diabolical and sometimes downright ridiculous. Who would have known that their fate could ultimately hinge on finding a working fax machine in a small town in El Salvador? And on getting a signature from their parents, when the cruelty of their parents was the “official” reason they fled? (The real reason: A homicidal uncle was threatening to kill Ernesto, and enlisted the aid of a miniature goon squad to do the deed.)" 



Forbes Magazine Q&A

Thanks to Forbes for reaching out with questions about my book, The Far Away Brothers


Violent Femmes

My article for Pacific Standard on the rise of girl gangsters in El Salvador : 

More than three-quarters of femicides in El Salvador are never prosecuted. As femicide rates have risen over the past decade, so has the number of young women and girls entering gang life. That fact can be attributed, in part, to the extraordinary growth of the gangs themselves, but it also reflects a survival instinct: Girls are increasingly joining gangs in order to protect themselves and their loved ones. Valentina and Dalia are among the tens of thousands of girls who have become involved in El Salvador's strengthening organized-crime rings, either as full-fledged members, as girlfriends (sometimes by choice, often by force), or as loosely affiliated helpers (mothers and sisters, for example, who cook for the gangs). Since 2003, the government of El Salvador has attempted to crack down on gangs using La Mano Dura (Iron Fist) campaigns, but with minimal success. In early 2016, the government further militarized the country's police force and expanded its power to arrest anyone on mere suspicion, turning the war on gangs into a seemingly perpetual arms race for control of Salvadoran society. Because adolescent boys fit the standard gangster profile, they are routinely targeted by authorities. Young women and girls can more easily slip by as they mule drugs or pick up bi-weekly extortion payments. Girls are assets to the gangs—inconspicuous foot soldiers, and excellent cannon fodder. Read more. 


The Far Away Brothers

My book, THE FAR AWAY BROTHERS, comes out on September 12th, 2017. Major countdown. Meanwhile, I'm very pleased that it received a starred Kirkus review.  

Markham relies on her roles as a journalist and a worker in the realm of refugee resettlement and immigrant education to craft a powerful narrative about an experience that plays out every day in the United States.

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., the author never loses sight of the big-picture issues regarding immigration. Throughout, she inserts brief chapters about those concerns in a compellingly intimate narrative about the Flores family. Markham keenly examines the plights of juveniles sent to America without adult supervision, a large, constantly growing contingent that includes twins Ernesto and Raúl Flores, who sought to escape their hometown because they feared for their lives among the rampant gang violence plaguing their country. Knowing almost nothing about the U.S., the Flores twins lacked both money for their journey and any marketable job skills, and they spoke no English. Their journey was harrowing, to say the least (spoilers omitted), and their transition to life in the U.S., mostly in Oakland, continues, raising new difficulties each day. As they have tried to balance their minimum-wage restaurant jobs with education, the schooling has suffered. Meanwhile, their parents and most of their siblings continue to live in highly dangerous circumstances in El Salvador. Markham met the twins in her job as a counselor at a public high school with a heavy influx of juvenile refugees without documentation, and her experience in that role informs the eye-opening narrative. Most of the book takes place before the election of Donald Trump, but it’s clear that the policies of the new administration will make the lives of the Flores twins and countless others even more terrifying.