Thursday, October 12, 2017

Book 98: Border Child

"But this third pregnancy felt similar to her first, with daily morning vomiting, and the constant taste of bile lingering in her throat. Perhaps this baby, like Lilia's first, would be a girl child. Little Alejandra would be almost four now. Is almost four now. She is almost four, Lilia told herself. Is, not would be."

Dates read: October 12-15, 2016

Rating: 3/10

Like pretty much everyone else in America, I'm descended from immigrants. On my mom's side of the family, the most recent immigrant was my grandmother, from Austria. On my dad's, it's my great-grandfather, from Poland. I have my whole family tree mapped out on Ancestry, I like digging into it and finding passenger lists and marriage certificates and thinking about how many people through history making certain moves at certain times that it took to end up with me, here and now. It's kind of miraculous, when you think about it.

But the historic, boats coming into Ellis Island type of immigration that white people tend to think about isn't the reality of immigration as it exists today. There's a whole complicated series of visas, or, for some people from south of the border, there's a fraught experience of smuggling oneself across the Rio Grande in the desperate hope for a better life. It's the same reason our grandparents and great grandparents came, but it's a different way of trying to make it happen. And it's a tragedy during such a border crossing which underlies Michel Stone's Border Child.

Hector and Lilia are a young couple in a small village in Mexico, the parents of a toddler son and an as-yet unborn baby. But they'd once had another: their firstborn, a daughter named Alejandra. Both Hector and Lilia had wanted more than what their rural town had to offer, and so Hector had himself smuggled to the US. Lonely and impatient, Lilia took Alejandra and attempted to cross herself. She was separated from the girl, and while Lilia made it, Alejandra vanished. They lived in the US a while anyways, ultimately being deported after a few years. They have their son and Lilia becomes pregnant again, and they try to move on, but a chance encounter with the one person who might be able to help them find out what happened to Alejandra leads Hector on a dangerous journey across the country to find out.

One of the reasons I read is to explore worlds outside of the one I experience as a married middle-class white lady in the US in this day and age. I picked up this book hoping for insight into the situation that drives people to try to cross the border, why they risk so much just to get into the country and try to stay. What I got was...not that. While it does get a little bit into what drove Hector and Lilia north in the first place, the book as a whole is just not very good, honestly. Neither of the main characters is given much depth, and the prose is flat. I've always understood one of the fundamental principals behind good storytelling to be to show rather than tell. Stone does exactly the opposite...he never lets a moment breathe, always has to put what should be subtext directly into text. There's no subtlety or artistry to it, and it's never more than a workmanlike reading experience. I was disappointed in this book, and wouldn't recommend it.

Tell me, blog friends...which of your ancestors was the most recent to come into the country where you live?

One year ago, I was reading: The Life of the World To Come

Two years ago, I was reading: Unbelievable

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