The Far Away Brothers by Lauren Markham

The Far Away Brothers

Lauren Markham

Lauren 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.

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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 distant 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.

Advance Galley Reviews

As you begin to read The Far Away Brothers, you are introduced to 17-year-old twins, undocumented minors, who are desperate to leave El Salvador, to find a better life in the United States. They have endured many hardships: gang cruelty and threats to their lives that force them to leave their home and family. You follow the tale as they journey to the U.S and subsequently try to acclimate themselves to the American culture. From an analytical perspective the story documents several situations in which the boys are “taught” to be helpless both in El Salvador and on their trek to America. Ultimately, they “learned” to be helpless, unsuccessful in their attempts to better control their lives. They frequently missed school, failed to learn English, and never graduated from high school. They get caught up in the American culture of purchasing clothes, phones, etc.; and also they failed to repay the debt to their family ($14,000 plus interest) for the “coyotes” to usher them across the border. In essence they learned the lessons they had been taught . . . that they could not control what happened to them. On one hand, I believe the book provides a germane examination of the experiences of these two teenagers, effectively highlighting the prevailing issues surrounding immigration today. On the other hand, the manuscript suffers from a halting switch in narration from the twins’ account to the author’s first person interaction with the boys and their situation. Moreover, the author’s infusion of “facts” and statistics interrupted the flow of the narrative and should have been confined to either the first or the last chapter of the book.

This book was eye opener and I would recommend that if you are interested in what is going on with the immigration issues in this country, that you read this book. Put yourself in the shoes of not just Ernesto or Raul "Flores", but also their older brother Wilber, Jr, or their sister, or one of the other family members not able to "head north". Very educational and a must read. With everything going on in this country, we all need to me not just more informed, but more understanding to what others are going through.

This book tells the story of 2 teen twin boys, Ernesto & Raul Flores, from El Salvador and their journey migrating to the United States. The author is a journalist who came into the boys life once they were enrolled in an Oakland, CA school for new immigrants where she worked as an administrator. This read shows the struggles facing Central American Latinos and their harrowing journey when they leave their country. I struggled a bit with the flow of the book since at times it seems to be told from the twins' point of view, but then would shift to the author's, and then would get interrupted with facts reporting on the immigrant crisis. It was also quite evident where the author lies politically and I prefer a more neutral stance since I'm not sure what the answer will be to all of the listed problems. Thanks to First to Read- Penguin Books USA for the free copy of this book.

This book was enlightening and educational. So much of the rhetoric and political disparities about immigration problems and solutions are covered here. A lot of misinformation was cleared up and the risks explained that these underage boys undertook to get to America. Overwhelming debt to pay for their trip and then danger plague the Flores twins fleeing El Salvador from gang violence. They end up at an immigration facility and later enter a high school that accepts them. Mostly, from the beginning, they are playing a losing game, that very few come out on top. The choices made are written in a realistic manner, some foolish and some out of desperation, bring the fate of the undocumented immigrants into a sympathetic light. Those very fortunate to get their green cards, have difficulty maintaining school and minimum wage jobs to actually live, pay back their debt and have a future. Revelations on the how the Wall wouldn't stop the influx until the entire socio-economic and political mess is addressed. Recommend for anyone interested in the other side of the story.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I enjoyed this book. It is written from the perspective of the brothers as a first-hand experience. It includes the entire family and this is important because whatever their reasons for leaving home, they retain the relationships and commitments to their family members. This book explores the additional issues raised when immigrating to the US, particularly as a minor and illegally. I believe it is well-written and examines a segment of our population that is ignored for the most part. Propaganda would make us believe that these "illegals" get an easy ride at taxpayer expense, but this just isn't the case. These individuals are willing to risk their fear of the unknown in coming to this country because of their fear of their own reality is actually greater. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone seeking information about immigration issues one those wanting to seek change from our current immigration policies.


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