Recent Work, News & Updates


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.


Fact Checking the Raids

My new story on Fact Checking the raids in this new political era is up at California Sunday

Since the November election, Gonzalez has become an immigration volunteer. The first time she received a call about a raid was just before Thanksgiving. Without any preparation, she raced to the scene and spoke to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers, who told her they were detaining an individual but not conducting a large-scale raid. By February, so many calls were coming in that Gonzalez, who was pursuing her B.A. in social work, put her school plans on hold. A longtime volunteer in her community, Gonzalez is gregarious and approachable, the kind of person whom friends, friends of friends, neighbors, her husband’s coworkers, and parents from her son’s elementary school contact if they need advice or help—or, these days, if they are frightened that ICE is in town. They might have seen an ICE officer or an ICE van, but more likely, as with the woman who was selling roses, they’ve heard a rumor via text or Facebook. Read more. 


"The Hanging" 

My new fiction story, "The Hanging," is up at Narrative Magazine. Was lovely to work on some fiction during the long, slow slog of writing a narrative nonfiction book. 

Thank you, Narrative


The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life

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.




Drought, Climate Change, Coffee & Migration


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 


"Our School" - Orion Magazine

"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. 

Photo by Nathaniel Wilder


Profile on the Mayor of San Salvador

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." 

Photo by Juan Carlos


Mesa Refuge

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.