The far away brothers Two young migrants and the making of an American life

Lauren Markham

Book - 2017

"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 faraway 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 for...ced 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."--Provided by publisher.

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  • The missing
  • The flood
  • The churn
  • The walls
  • The courthouse
  • The detained
  • The arrest
  • The girls
  • The failed
  • The halt
  • The long walk
  • The land.
Review by Booklist Reviews

Twins Ernesto and Raúl Flores grew up on their family's farm in El Salvador in an era when gang violence spread across the country. To escape threats, Ernesto and Raúl took out loans to pay a guide to take them north across the U.S.-Mexico border. The boys were part of a wave of unaccompanied minors escaping violence in their home countries. After a traumatic crossing, the twins moved to Oakland, California, to live with their older brother, Wilber. They worked to earn money to pay down their debts while attending high school, learning English, and attempting to gain legal residency in the U.S. Markham met the Flores brothers while working at their school. Markham's book is a stark examination of youth migration and the extreme risks taken to access a better life. Ernesto and Raúl's story is interspersed with reporting from stops along the route north, in which Markham explores the dangers of migration and of staying home. Markham questions the accessibility of the American dream while compassionately narrating Raúl and Ernesto's experiences. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Raised in El Salvador in the shadow of civil war, Ernesto Flores always dreamed of going to the United States. When he offended a dangerous gang in the region, he had to flee north, followed by identical twin Raul. Here's the story of how these two 17-year-olds ended up in the custody of an estranged older brother in Oakland and learned to adapt to America. Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Markham (Virginia Quarterly Review) recounts the experiences of twin brothers Ernesto and Raúl Flores, who fled El Salvador at age 17. The author candidly discusses their lives in their home country as they negotiated poverty, violence, and limited possibilities. After their uncle threatens them, the Flores family takes out a massive loan to hire a coyote to transport the twins to the United States. The Flores boys endure hardship and uncertainty during their travels, only to be apprehended after crossing the border. Owing to their status as unaccompanied minors, they are allowed to stay in the country while awaiting deportation proceedings. Markham describes the stress and uncertainty as they navigate a new country and new language. Their experience is contrasted with that of their sister Maricela, who still lives in El Salvador. Markham also intersperses background chapters that provide a larger picture of the migrant crisis and finishes by calling for the United States to claim responsibility for their role in creating the Central American migrant crisis and to address the problem humanely. VERDICT An affecting and personal look into the experiences of minor migrants.—Rebekah Kati, Durham, NC Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

While working to assist young immigrants at an Oakland, Calif., school district, writer Markham encountered Raúl and Ernesto Flores from El Salvador, teenage twin brothers who, like many others in recent years, fled gang violence in Central America and came to the U.S. as unaccompanied minors. For the Flores brothers, home was La Colonia, an idyllic village until it was overrun by gangsters—among them the boys' uncle, whose threats against Ernesto precipitated the twins' emigration. Markham outlines the twins' perilous journey to the U.S.: a long trek through the desert and a traumatizing violent incident. Once here, they had to navigate a labyrithine path to citizenship, beset by language barriers, difficulty securing legal counsel, and lack of funds, to say nothing of the emotional issues that caused the twins to fall into patterns of drinking and self-harm. In addition to the boys, Markham introduces the reader to their older brother Wilber, who acts as the boys' guardian despite being only 24, and their sister Maricela, left behind in La Colonia to deal with an unplanned pregnancy and the family's debt. Markham also visits a Mexican migrant shelter, the border wall in southern Texas, and an immigration courthouse to give further context. This is a timely and thought-provoking exploration of a international quagmire. Markham provides a sensitive and eye-opening take on what's at stake for young immigrants with nowhere else to go. (Sept.) Copyright 2017 Publisher Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

An urgent chronicle of contemporary immigration follows the harrowing journey of a pair of teenaged twins from El Salvador who were forced by gang violence to see safety and a better life in the United States, an endeavor marked by family estrangement, a mounting coyote debt and America's complicated immigration policies.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"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 alwayshad a fascination with the United States, the faraway 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."--Provided by publisher.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

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.“Impeccably timed, intimately reported, and beautifully expressed.”—The New York TimesNAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW • WINNER OF THE RIDENHOUR BOOK PRIZE • SILVER WINNER OF THE CALIFORNIA BOOK AWARDGrowing up in rural El Salvador in the wake of the civil war, the United States was a distant fantasy to identical twins Ernesto and Raul Flores—until, at age seventeen, a deadly threat from the region’s brutal gangs forces them to flee the only home they’ve ever known. In this urgent chronicle of contemporary immigration, journalist Lauren Markham follows the Flores twins as they make their way across the Rio Grande and the Texas desert, into the hands of immigration authorities, and from there to their estranged older brother in Oakland, CA. Soon these unaccompanied minors are navigating 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 teenage life with only each other for support. With intimate access and breathtaking range, Markham offers an unforgettable testament to the migrant experience.FINALIST FOR THE LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE • SHORTLISTED FOR THE J. ANTHONY LUKAS BOOK PRIZE • LONGLISTED FOR THE PEN/BOGRAD WELD PRIZE FOR BIOGRAPHY“[This] beautifully written book . . . can be read as a supplement to the current news, a chronicle of the problems that Central Americans are fleeing and the horrors they suffer in flight. But it transcends the crisis. Markham’s deep, frank reporting is also useful in thinking ahead to the challenges of assimilation, for the struggling twins and many others like them. . . . Her reporting is intimate and detailed, and her tone is a special pleasure. Trustworthy, calm, decent, it offers refuge from a world consumed by Twitter screeds and cable news demagogues. . . . A generous book for an ungenerous age.”—Jason DeParle, The New York Review of Books“You should read The Far Away Brothers. We all should.”—NPR“This is the sort of news that is the opposite of fake. . . . Markham is our knowing, compassionate ally, our guide in sorting out, up close, how our new national immigration policy is playing out from a human perspective. . . . An important book.”—The Minneapolis Star Tribune