Monday, September 2, 2013

Enrique's Journey

Enrique's Journey, by Sonia Nazario is the book being discussed at book club this month.

Nazario won the journalism prize for her account about Enrique's odyssey in 2002.  She recounts how this boy traveled from Honduras to cross the Mexican border into the U.S. to rejoin the mother who had left him behind more than ten years before. The journey is one that thousands of children attempt and many die trying.

Enrique finally made it into the States after his ninth attempt. He is reunited with his mother, a now mythical creature who has become a stranger as a decade passed. The sad thing is, Enrique and his wife repeat the cycle, leaving their own child behind in Mexico, hoping to have their daughter join them some day in the distant future.

I read the original series of articles that were published in the Los Angeles Times, available in their entirety with chapter notes, on the Pulitzer site. The book was published four years later and quickly became a bestseller.

In the Introduction the author shares how a conversation with her Mexican maid led to her discovery about mothers who leave their children behind in the hopes of building a better life, entering the U.S. illegally, "undocumented". Some never see their children again, unable to save the money required to bring about their passage. With others, it is their children who decide to make the perilous journey to reunite with family. Interestingly, the maid questions the motives of middle-class, American mothers who leave their children to go to work every day, wondering why they would ever do such a thing if they would only "tighten their belts".

Following the journey of one boy, Enrique, personalizes the trek made by thousands and helps readers translate the enormity of the situation.

Many of us found the story well told but difficult to read. What can we do about all these horrific things that happen in the world?

We happened to be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Book Babes tonight.

Miriam served her homemade tortillas, amazing mole, guacamole, and her famous margaritas in honour of the occasion. And yes,  I felt suitably guilty, with my privileged first-world problems. Enjoying the feast, the company of these women, the discussion. 

Miriam shared this poem by Naomi Shihab Nye and it resonates...


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,

feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. 
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
     purchase bread,

only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

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