cover image The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life

The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life

Lauren Markham. Crown, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-1-101-90618-7

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.)