Newsbook: Read These 3 Books on the Toll of Migration on Children

Over the last couple of weeks, public outcry over the separation of children from their parents at the United States-Mexico border has intensified, sparking conversations about the toll of migration on minors. These books, including a novel in which a mother and son are divided when she is placed in a detention center, explore this issue. [ Click here to read our roundup of books on the immigration policy debate. ]


An Essay in Forty Questions
By Valeria Luiselli
128 pp. Coffee House Press. (2017)

This slim book is organized around the 40 questions unaccompanied child migrants are made to complete when they arrive in the United States; Luiselli worked as a volunteer interpreter at a federal immigration court in New York City in 2015, translating her interviews with the children from Spanish to English. “The problem with trying to tell their story is that it has no beginning, no middle and no end,” Luiselli writes. According to our reviewer, Luiselli’s interrogation of our immigration system, which connects the current situation of immigrant children with the United States’ foreign intervention and immigration policies in the 1980s and 1990s, does not offer easy answers. “If there is anything that Luiselli wants to dismantle,” he writes, “it’s our veneer of understanding.”


By Shanthi Sekaran
472 pages. Putnam. (2017)

This novel intertwines the stories of two women: Soli, an 18-year-old undocumented immigrant from Mexico who works as a housekeeper, and Kavya, a well-to-do Indian-American struggling to have children with her husband, Rishi. Soli became pregnant en route to the United States and gives birth after she arrives to a son, Ignacio, who she must raise on her own. When she is arrested and put in a detention center, her son is placed in foster care, where he catches the attention of Kavya and Rishi, who have decided to adopt. “In pitting two very different kinds of immigrants against each other — one comfortably assimilated, the other helpless in every sense — Sekaran offers a brilliantly agonizing setup,” wrote our reviewer.


The Story of a Boy’s Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite With His Mother
By Sonia Nazario
320 pp. Random House. (2006)

Based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning series in The Los Angeles Times, this book, which has also been adapted for young adults, expands on the story of Enrique, a young man whose mother moved from Honduras to the United States when he was 5 years old, leaving him behind with relatives. Enrique yearned for his mother and a decade later, came after her. Nazario “retraces his steps, telling the story as though she had sat beside him on each step of his journey,” wrote our reviewer. Nazario also incorporates the stories of other young migrants, like a 17-year-old girl who was raped by five men, and highlights those who work to help them.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A3 of the New York edition with the headline: Here to Help; 3 Books on the Toll of Migration on Children. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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