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

by Lauren Markham

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1304214,156 (3.93)1
"The deeply reported story of identical twin brothers who escape El Salvador's violence to build new lives in California--fighting to survive, to stay, and to belong. Growing up in rural El Salvador in the wake of the civil war, Ernesto Flores had always had a fascination with the United States, the faraway land of skyscrapers and Nikes, while his identical twin, Raul, never felt that northbound tug. But when Ernesto ends up on the wrong side of the region's brutal gangs he is forced to flee the country, and Raul, because he looks just like his brother, follows close behind--away from one danger and toward the great American unknown. In this urgent chronicle of contemporary immigration, journalist Lauren Markham follows the seventeen-year-old Flores twins as they make their harrowing journey across the Rio Grande and the Texas desert, into the hands of immigration authorities, and from there to their estranged older brother's custody in Oakland, CA. Soon these unaccompanied minors are navigating a new school in a new language, working to pay down their mounting coyote debt, and facing their day in immigration court, while also encountering the triumphs and pitfalls of life as American teenagers--girls, grades, Facebook--with only each other for support. With intimate access and breathtaking range, Markham offers a coming of age tale that is also a nuanced portrait of Central America's child exodus, an investigation of U.S. immigration policy, and an unforgettable testament to the migrant experience."--Provided by publisher.… (more)
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This is the story of two identical twin brothers who fight to escape their country before the beginning of a civil war. These brothers are fighting to survive and find out where they truly belong. I would highly recommend this book to any middle school student. ( )
  StephanieEHoover | Nov 20, 2020 |
Pop-up book. Putting names and circumstances on immigrants sneaking across the border. Of course, heart wrenching. Twin brothers leave their families in their teens b/c they are targeted by the gangs. Can't work or survive. Travel to LA is horrendous. Get into school and get help to try to become legal but circumstances keep crumbling under them. ( )
  splinfo | Feb 13, 2020 |
I read this book with an open-heart and open-mind. Living in California, I have heard so many stories like the Flores Twins.
Lauren Markham has done a wonderful job writing of the hard, terrorizing journey of kids who leave their countries to avoid danger, hardship and potential death and come to a country that doesn’t quit know what to do with them.
As a daughter of an immigrant from Germany after World War Two, I know the harsh reality of a teenager trying to fit in, even though doing so legally. The Flores twins have to try and find their way to make the connection from illegal to becoming a citizen of the United States.

I am not sure what is the right way for that to happen, however I am thankful that people like Lauren Markham exist.

This book will help all those who read it to see that these teens are just like their teens, to an extent, hopefully more people will come to an understanding that kids are still kids and need to be looked after, taken care of and nurtured, no matter their legal standing.

I was given this books through Penguin First to Read in lieu of my honest opinion. Thanks Penguin Random House! ( )
  SandraBrower | Oct 27, 2019 |
To solve a problem one must understand what caused it and address its root causes. That is a hard thing, requiring work and effort and creative thinking. Why not just make the problem illegal?

We have been trying that and it does not seem to work. "Just say no" to sex or drugs, prison sentences for drug possession, throwing a pregnant teenage daughter out of the house--none of these ever solved anything.

Illegal immigration has become the issue of the day under the present administration. Migrants have been arrested, abused, sent back, and yet more come. Build a wall, we are told, that will keep them out. I doubt it. There is a reason why people leave their homeland and family, and the reasons are rarely trite.

In her timely book The Far Away Brothers , Lauren Markham tells the story of the twin Flores brothers who flee El Salvador to join their undocumented migrant brother in America. We learn about their lives in El Salvador, about their families, the challenges they faced on their journey north, and the multiple difficulties of their lives in the United States.

Markham, who has reported on undocumented immigration for a decade, spent two years researching for this book, plus she draws from her experience working with immigrant students at Oakland International High School. She chose to write about twins to illustrate how each immigrant has their own motivation and individual response to the experience.

In the past the draw to the United States was for economic opportunity and security. Today migrants leave their homes to escape the domination and violence of the gangs who have taken over power. Last year 60,000 unaccompanied minors entered the United States, most from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador--the 'murder capital of the world'.

When one of the Flores twins is targeted by their uncle's gang he decides he must leave to survive, and his twin brother joins him. The boys' family puts their livelihood at risk by offering the their land as security to raise money for transport to the border. They falsely assume the debt can be paid off quickly once the boys get jobs, but the interest blows their debt up to $20,000.

The journey leaves its psychic scars; one twin has nightmares and cannot talk about what he had seen.

To stay in America the boys must be in school, under their older brother's authority. Somehow they must also earn money to start paying off their debt to the coyotes. They are teenagers, too, who are finally 'free' and they don't always handle that freedom well. Readers may not always like the boys, but hopefully they will understand their fears, confusion, and motivations.

The author is not afraid to offer a paragraph on American policies that have contributed to the Central American 'catastrophe', by supplying weapons and by creating free-trade deals that hurt small farmers. Then there is the legacy of large corporations that bought up land for farming, controlling resources and the economic benefits.

As Markham writes, "People migrate now for the same reason they always have: survival." Investment in improving educational and economic opportunities, addressing the root causes of migration, would be a better use of federal funds than building a wall.

I read Enique's Journey by Sonia Nazario about ten years ago. Here is what she had to say about The Far Away Brothers:

“Powerful…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.,…[this] compellingly intimate narrative…keenly examines the plights of juveniles sent to America without adult supervision….One of the most searing books on illegal immigration since Sonia Nazario’s Enrique’s Journey.” —Kirkus

I received a free ebook through First to Read in exchange for a fair and unbiased review. ( )
  nancyadair | Aug 28, 2017 |
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"The deeply reported story of identical twin brothers who escape El Salvador's violence to build new lives in California--fighting to survive, to stay, and to belong. Growing up in rural El Salvador in the wake of the civil war, Ernesto Flores had always had a fascination with the United States, the faraway land of skyscrapers and Nikes, while his identical twin, Raul, never felt that northbound tug. But when Ernesto ends up on the wrong side of the region's brutal gangs he is forced to flee the country, and Raul, because he looks just like his brother, follows close behind--away from one danger and toward the great American unknown. In this urgent chronicle of contemporary immigration, journalist Lauren Markham follows the seventeen-year-old Flores twins as they make their harrowing journey across the Rio Grande and the Texas desert, into the hands of immigration authorities, and from there to their estranged older brother's custody in Oakland, CA. Soon these unaccompanied minors are navigating a new school in a new language, working to pay down their mounting coyote debt, and facing their day in immigration court, while also encountering the triumphs and pitfalls of life as American teenagers--girls, grades, Facebook--with only each other for support. With intimate access and breathtaking range, Markham offers a coming of age tale that is also a nuanced portrait of Central America's child exodus, an investigation of U.S. immigration policy, and an unforgettable testament to the migrant experience."--Provided by publisher.

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