Tuesday, September 4, 2012

One Book One Denver - Enrique's Journey

The announcement today that the 2012 One Book One Denver is Enrique’s Journey is a milestone. It is the first time that One Book One Denver has selected a non-fiction book. As a first it is a great choice.

This is a remarkable book of a remarkable story about a remarkable boy by a remarkable writer, Sonia Nazario.

Enrique's Journey is about a 17-year-old boy from Honduras who makes the difficult journey from his home town, Tegucigalpa, to the United States, to be reunited with his mother.

But the book is more than that. It not only tells the story of Enrique and the journey he makes to the United States but a journey retraced by the author herself.
Nazario wrote a series of Pulitzer Prize-winning articles for the Los Angeles Times in 2002.

She spent nearly 5 years reporting and writing Enrique’s Journey. After doing months of research, she met Enrique, 17, at a shelter for migrants in Nuevo Laredo. She spent time shadowing him there and hearing about his remarkable trip North. She reconstructed the dangerous trek from Honduras to the U.S. by making the same 1600 mile journey, much of it on top of 7 freight trains, up the length of Mexico. She then retraced his journey a second time. Each trip took 3 months.

When Enrique is five years old, his mother, Lourdes, too poor to feed her children, leaves Honduras to work in the United States. The move allows her to send money back home to Enrique so he can eat better and go to school past the third grade. Lourdes promises Enrique she will return quickly. But she struggles in America. Years pass. He begs for his mother to come back. Without her, he becomes lonely and troubled. When she calls, Lourdes tells him to be patient. Enrique despairs of ever seeing her again. After eleven years apart, he decides he will go find her. Enrique sets off alone from Tegucigalpa, with little more than a slip of paper bearing his mother’s North Carolina telephone number. Without money, he will make the dangerous and illegal trek up the length of Mexico the only way he can–clinging to the sides and tops of freight trains.

With gritty determination and a deep longing to be by his mother’s side, Enrique travels through hostile, unknown worlds. Each step of the way through Mexico, he and other migrants, many of them children, are hunted like animals. Gangsters control the tops of the trains. Bandits rob and kill migrants up and down the tracks. Corrupt cops all along the route are out to fleece and deport them. To evade Mexican police and immigration authorities, they must jump onto and off the moving boxcars they call El Tren de la Muerte–The Train of Death. Enrique pushes forward using his wit, courage, and hope–and the kindness of strangers. It is an epic journey, one thousands of immigrant children make each year to find their mothers in the United States.

As immigration is front and center in this year’s Presidential Election, this is a story worth telling and hearing. It puts a human face on what are sometimes meaningless immigration statistics; it outlines in graphic detail what hundreds of thousands of people face; it makes it harder to dismiss discussion of immigration as political posturing. This is not an easy summer-read kind of book; it is not facile but it is well worth reading and taking to heart.

The book is available in English and Spanish and is available for loan at the Denver Public Library.

One Book One Denver selects a book each September for a communitywide read and discussion. Online voting selects the final book from three nominations. This years nominations were: Denver by John Dunning, The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan and of course Enriques Journey.

More about this year’s One Book One Denver, later.

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