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Enrique's Journey by Sonia Nazario

Enrique's Journey

by Sonia Nazario

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RGG: The adult version is incredibly detailed, but the individual specifics as well as the larger context of Enrique's experience are intense and compelling. The rambling of the story somewhat detracts, and points would have been clearer with editing although perhaps Nazario wanted to ensure the myriad of facts would bolster the truth of her telling. Reading Interest: YA-Adult.
  rgruberhighschool | May 12, 2015 |
RGG: The adult version is incredibly detailed, but the individual specifics as well as the larger context of Enrique's experience is intense and compelling. The rambling of the story somewhat detracts, and points would have been clearer with editing although perhaps Nazario wanted to ensure the myriad of facts would bolster the truth of her telling. Reading Interest: YA-Adult.
  rgruberexcel | May 12, 2015 |
rabck from Pam99; Heartbreaking. Originally a newpaper series, the author expanded her investigation and turned it into a book. She follows teenager, Enrique, on his journey as an illegal immigrant from Hondorus to America. A great deal of the journey was traveling through Mexico. His mother, left as a poor single parent of two young children by her philandering husband, left the children and made it to America. She believed at the time that it was the best thing for her family. But she never got ahead, and sending expensive presents and money to her relatives didn't make up for not being there. After reuniting with Enrique, nine years after she left, the relationship is broken almost beyond repair. Using their tale, the author explores the issue of why? The poverty, the breakdown of family in the country, the dislocation of the children as more and more mothers go north, and the crackdown on immigration, which makes it harder for the immigrants to slip back home & then north again all make it a no win situation. ( )
  nancynova | May 4, 2014 |
Enrique’s Journey is a partial biographical book. The writer, Sonia Nazario, covers Enrique’s life from January 2000 when his mother left him to March 2013 when he is awaiting deportation. The book is a compilation of interviews and random facts from various people who know of Enrique and his life before, during, and after the journey to the United States.

Starting from the beginning, the book has an interesting cover. The dust jacket has a picture of a child riding on a train, which you learn later on, is a popular way migrants try to find their way into Mexico. The text font and colors (orange and beige) are inviting. The cover clearly shows that this book is an adaptation from another adult book that has been adapted for young adults. I’m not quite sure what that means, since I did not read the adult book. I also find some things in the book graphic enough to warrant the “adult” tag. There are instances of rape, beatings, and murder that may warrant a “parental guidance” headline. Also, the cover attempts to develop some ethos by proudly portraying the writer as a Pulitzer Prize winner.

As you open the book to read the inside of the dust jacket, the writer gives a quick synopsis as to what can be expected. “This is the true and heartbreaking story of sixteen year old Enrique,” serves to put the reader into a sympathetic mood. You will find many instances of the author injected artificial sympathy to help convey her argument. I am personally not a fan of this method and therefore lose sympathy every time this arises. At the bottom of the dust jacket, you find out that the writer won her Pulitzer off of a different work. In my opinion, this damages her credibility because she won her Pulitzer through a different medium, the newspaper. Crossing mediums from the newspaper to the non-fiction book requires a different style of writing. However, Nazario fails to adapt since her book reads more along the lines of a group of notes as opposed to one single piece of work.

The table of contents is logically represented. The book is broken up by “Parts” and “chapters.” The parts represent major checkpoints in Enrique’s life: his life in Honduras, his journey to the US, and his life in the US. The chapter titles clearly represent what the chapter will be about.

Turning the page, we come upon a map that charts out Enrique’s journey from Honduras to the United States. This map is incredibly helpful because it helps clarify any misconceptions as it pertains to location. At times, I was confused as to where the city or state that Enrique was in was located in relation to Honduras and the United States. Enrique fails multiple times (7); therefore, there are a lot of repeated locations and this causes confusion. The map helps with keeping locations in order.

From the map, we turn into the Prologue and the beginning of the array of problems I have with this book. To begin with, the beginning discusses a completely different family. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, as Prologues generally serve to set up the book. However, in this case I found talking about Carmen and her son Minor to be a disservice to the book. The cover clearly tells me who the focus of the book will be. The inside flap also reiterates who the focus of the book will be on. The table of contents and map tell me who the focus of the book will be on. So to open into a Prologue with the focus on a different family was incredibly confusing.

There is also the issue of the writer’s research method. Nazario seeks to lend herself and the text credibility by discussing how she went about doing her research. Nazario rode the same train tops, hitchhiked along the same route, and did everything possible to recreate the same route that Enrique claims to have taken. However, there is a major difference in the way Nazario and Enrique went about with their journeys. Enrique did not have money and received a great portion of his food and water from begging. Enrique lived in constant fear, wondering whether or not he would be robbed, beaten, killed, or deported. The mindset and lack of stability makes Enrique’s journey so harrowing. This is a far cry from the approach that Nazario took. “At the end of a long train ride, I would pull out my credit card, go to a motel, shower, eat, and sleep,” (13). Having the money to recover after a long day of pretending to be a migrant has major psychological effects. She had a sense of security that was not afforded to Enrique. Also, during her journey through Chiapas (the most dangerous state to cross), Nazario hired body guards and had made arrangements with the train drivers to keep herself safe. Again, these safety precautions were not available to Enrique. I conclude that any information included that come from Nazario’s experiences hurt the credibility of the book as a whole. Her experiences could only serve as artificial experiences of struggle that are more apt for fiction than non-fiction.

The actual text does not do a better job either. There are moments of incredibly suspicious information. For example, on May 15, Enrique makes 60 pesos cleaning cars. He already has one 50 peso phone card and rushes to buy a 30 peso card to make the phone calls necessary to get him across the river. This leaves Enrique with two phone cards, one 50 pesos and one 30 pesos, and 30 pesos in cash. “Enrique saves his other thirty pesos for food,” (137). Whether this quote comes from Enrique or it is a guess from Nazario remains to be seen. However, later that day, Enrique gets hungry. One would imagine that he would use the 30 pesos that he has earmarked for food to eat. This is not the case. “Finally, he cannot stand it. He retrieves the first phone card from the friend who is holding it, and he sells it for food,” (138). What happened to the thirty pesos that was earmarked for food? For some reason, he keeps the money and instead sells his phone card for food. The transaction is incredibly illogical. Someone as conscious of his situation as Enrique would know to spend the cash he has previously earmarked for food. From this situation, we either learn that Nazario is inputting information that is inherently false, or Enrique is an unreliable source. Either way, this strikes at the accuracy of this book.

There is also issue with the way girls on the journey try to prevent from being raped. “Some girls journeying north cut off their hair, bind their breasts, and try to pass for boys. Others scrawl on their chests Tengo SIDA, ‘ I have AIDS,’” (71). Although these are very dramatic representations of what women do to prevent from being raped, the lack of evidence from someone other than Olivia Ruiz weakens the credibility. In eight attempts to get to the US, there are no stories about women doing these things. There is one story where a girl stayed as dirty as possible to prevent from being raped. But her method doesn’t align with this quote and therefore conflicts with what Olivia Ruiz claims.

Interesting insertions into the book were the pictures of Enrique and various family members. I enjoyed the personal nature of these pictures. However, their location in relation to the rest of the book was concerning. The first three pictures would have been better placed near the beginning of the book when we were being introduced to these characters. The three pictures are Enrique and his grandmother, Enrique alone, and Enrique receiving what I assume to be an elementary school degree. The multiple pictures of people riding the train would have been better placed in chapters 3, 4, or 5 where train rides were the focal point of the text. And finally, the pictures of Enrique’s daughter, and Enrique meeting his mother in North Carolina should have been placed later, when those events actually happened. It was disappointing to go through the book wondering whether or not Enrique meets his mother only to come to the pictures and see that he does before the event takes place in the story telling. Either way, there doesn’t seem to be a logical reason why the pictures would all be clumped together in this section. It just doesn’t seem that there was any thought put into the location of pictures and that they were an afterthought.

The notes section could also use some thought. It seems that instead of including a bibliography and index, the writer thought it was better to have a combination of the two and include it within the “notes” section.
The “notes” section is broken by chapter and written in paragraphs. I find this method questionable because it makes reading the information difficult. Facts and statistics are referenced in paragraph format where a simple bulleted list would have sufficed. We learn that a majority of the information is from interviews of various people. However, I find this suspicious given that there are so many people (around 34,000) trying to emigrate north. Because of such a large population trying to make their way north, I find it suspicious that anyone could remember a specific person. For example, in chapter 5 a pregnant girl was shot and beaten by cops (something that should have a parental guidance tag). The pregnant girl was not given a name and instead simply labeled “pregnant Honduran girl.” If this girl didn’t warrant detailed remembrance, why would Enrique who for all accounts had a pretty normal experience trying to move north? The notes section merely referenced a woman that claims to be the witness.

Because of the various problems with this book, I do not recommend that it be added to the library. For its purpose, a non-fiction biography, its problems of accuracy and organization do not make it credible enough to be added to a non-fiction collection. The library already has a book similar to this one, Lupita Manana by Patricia Beatty. They both seem to have the same purpose of shedding light on the difficulties of Central Americans making it to the US and their difficulties after they live in the US. I haven’t read Lupita Manana but if it is more accurate with an index and bibliography and a more logical arrangement, I would recommend that book over Enrique’s Journey.

Although I don’t recommend this book for inclusion into the non-fiction collection, I would still use this book in my own class. If I take away the non-fiction label from this book, I still see the potential for it to teach valuable lessons in humanity and emigration. The book addresses themes of racism as well as the struggle for the “American dream.” I can see it following really well in an English unit that revolved around critical race theory. For example, if I spent a semester focusing on race, I would probably use this book as an entry point to study Hispanic culture in America. I could use the book as an entry to show the struggles of some to come to America, then segue to life in America and the “American dream.” If I pair this book up with some corridos and teach the unit the same time that the World Geography course teaches multiculturalism, there would be a nice flow between courses that is conducive to deeper learning. But I think it is necessary that this book, if it is taught, should be taught in high school. The references to rape, murder, and violence are inappropriate for younger children. So regardless of my disapproval that this book be considered non-fiction, I still see its literary value and use in a high school classroom.
  jhuynh5 | Mar 30, 2014 |
All she wanted was to be able to provide for her family. To be able to feed them and clothe them. To feel like a good mom. So she left Honduras and came to the United States to find a job so she could send money home to her kids and family. Lourdes is like so many mothers, wanting to provide a good life for her children, but unlike many mothers, she had to make the hard choice to leave her home country to make that happen. Her son Enrique was just five when she left, and when he turned 16, he decided to come to the United States to find his mother. His journey north would have discouraged most, but he stuck it out, even after being deported several times, being beaten to within an inch of his life, being robbed, being alone, and feeling rejected and hopeless. He persevered, much of the time with only a scrap of paper with a phone number written on it and the clothes on his back, in order to make it to the U.S. When he arrived and found his mother, the reunion was at first happy, then turned sour as Enrique's feelings of abandonment and rejection come to the surface. As Enrique and his mother figure out how to relate to one another again, they discover that being mother and son means more than being in the same country. ( )
  litgirl29 | Jan 1, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812971787, Paperback)

In this astonishing true story, award-winning journalist Sonia Nazario recounts the unforgettable odyssey of a Honduran boy who braves unimaginable hardship and peril to reach his mother in the United States.
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.
Based on the Los Angeles Times newspaper series that won two Pulitzer Prizes, one for feature writing and another for feature photography, Enrique’s Journey is the timeless story of families torn apart, the yearning to be together again, and a boy who will risk his life to find the mother he loves.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:20 -0400)

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Based on the Los Angeles Times series that won two Pulitzer Prizes, this is a timeless story of families torn apart. When Enrique was five, his mother, too poor to feed her children, left Honduras to work in the United States. The move allowed her to send money back home so Enrique could eat better and go to school past the third grade. She promised she would return quickly, but she struggled in America. Without her, he became lonely and troubled. After eleven years, he decided he would go find her. He set off alone, with little more than a slip of paper bearing his mother's North Carolina telephone number. Without money, he made the dangerous trek up the length of Mexico, clinging to the sides and tops of freight trains. He and other migrants, many of them children, are hunted like animals. To evade bandits and authorities, they must jump onto and off the moving boxcars they call the Train of Death. It is an epic journey, one thousands of children make each year to find their mothers in the United States.--From publisher description.… (more)

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