Lauren Markham: One Community One Book

Growing up in rural El Salvador in the wake of the country’s civil war, Ernesto and Raúl Flores always had a fascination with the United States, that distant land of skyscrapers and opportunity. Ernesto dreamed of going one day, but Raúl never felt the northbound tug to which so many hermanos lejanos, or “faraway brothers,” had yielded. When seventeen-year-old Ernesto ends up on the wrong side of the region’s brutal gangs, both brothers are forced to flee the country—away from one danger and toward the great American unknown.

In this urgent chronicle of contemporary immigration, journalist Lauren Markham follows the 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, California. 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.

Lauren Markham is a writer and reporter based in Northern California. She writes fiction, essays and journalism – mostly about migration, youth, the environment, and her home state of California, though about other things, too.

Friday, October 4, 7 p.m. Room 240, Art Building West. 141 North Riverside Drive. Iowa City, IA 52242