#OwnVoices Books About Migration Across the Southern U.S. Border

Border Wall, Rio Grande Valley, Texas, by Callie Richmond for The Texas Tribune

As a result of all the furor surrounding author Jeanine Cummins' American Dirt, I wanted to offer readers a selection of some #ownvoices authors who have written highly regarded books (most are nonfiction) on the subject of migration across the U.S. southern border.

Luis Alberto Urrea's The Devil's Highway, published in 2004, offers a harrowing account of twenty-six men who attempted to cross the US/Mexican border through the Sonoran desert to arrive in Arizona in May 2001. Only twelve men survived. A Pulitzer Prize finalist, The Devil's Highway shows, sadly, how little has changed in twenty years.

For those who prefer to read fiction, Urrea's recently published novel House of Broken Angels has been highly lauded. Set in San Diego, the aging patriarch of a family seeks to organize one last birthday party, gathering family from both sides of the San Diego/Tijuana border. House of Broken Angels was a National Book Critics Circle Award nominee in 2018.

Journalist Sonia Nazario's Pulitzer Prize-winning series for the Los Angeles Times was adapted in 2007 into Enrique's Journey about a boy who makes the perilous journey from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, to Mexico, across the border, to search for his mother in North Carolina. Nazario has been hailed as a journalist who puts faces on statistics, telling the very human stories. (Clearly nonfiction.)

El Salvadoran reporter Óscar Martínez investigates the abduction of 300 people trying to cross the Mexican border between Altar, Mexico and Sasabe, Arizona. Though a local priest got 120 people released, the rest just vanished. Bravely investigating the situation with the narcotrafficantes and the perils of the migrant trail, he details the risks of riding La Bestia (The Beast), the train that crosses from Mexico into the US. Published in 2013, this nonfiction book has many vivid photos. Its original title in Spanish is Los Migrantes Que No Importan (Migrants That Don't Matter).

I'll let Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist José Antonio Vargas's 2018 book Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen provide its own introduction:

“This is not a book about the politics of immigration. This book––at its core––is not about immigration at all. This book is about homelessness, not in a traditional sense, but in the unsettled, unmoored psychological state that undocumented immigrants like myself find ourselves in. This book is about lying and being forced to lie to get by; about passing as an American and as a contributing citizen; about families, keeping them together, and having to make new ones when you can’t. This book is about constantly hiding from the government and, in the process, hiding from ourselves. This book is about what it means to not have a home.

After 25 years of living illegally in a country that does not consider me one of its own, this book is the closest thing I have to freedom.”

For those open to a more spiritual or religiously-oriented take on the migrant saga, Karen Gonzalez's The God Who Sees filters the story of her family's flight to safety, from Guatemala to Los Angeles, through the paradigm of others in Scripture who have fled their homeland and sought safety and refuge— from Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, to Ruth, Hagar, and Abraham. This book has been called a must-read for the Christian faithful looking to better inform themselves about immigration and migrants.

I can also recommend readers who are not limiting themselves to #ownvoices writers check out Aaron Bobrow-Strain's The Death and Life of Aida Hernandez: A Border Story. Bobrow-Strain, a professor of politics and public affairs at Whitman College, takes us into the heart of the modern immigration machine in the USA.

You can buy any of these books at your local indie bookstore by looking for them on BookstoreLink.com

If you prefer to buy online, my shelf at Bookshop.com has you covered. Orders are fulfilled by Ingram but profits are shared with independent booksellers partnered with Bookshop.com. (If you order from them, the blog does benefit from your order.)

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