This “harrowing, heartbreaking story” (Kirkus Reviews) depicts the epic journey of a young Guatemalan American college student, a “dreamer,” who gets deported and decides to make his way back home to California.
One day, Emilio learns the shocking secret: he is undocumented. His parents, who emigrated from Guatemala to California, had never told him.
Emilio slowly adjusts to his new normal. All is going well, he’s in his second year at UC Berkeley...then he gets into a car accident, and—without a driver’s license or any ID—the policeman on the scene reports him to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Once deported to Guatemala, Emilio is determined to get back to California, the only home he has ever known. It is an epic journey that takes him across thousands of miles and eventually the Sonoran Desert of the United States-Mexico border, meeting thieves and corrupt law enforcement but also kind strangers and new friends.
Inspired in part by interviews with Central American refugees, and told in lyrical prose, Micheline Aharonian Marcom weaves a “powerful, heartbreaking” (Publishers Weekly) tale of adventure. In The New American, Marcom “depicts inhumanity with visceral force, but her bracing empathy (and hope) shines above all” (Entertainment Weekly). This is a compassionate story of one young man who risks so much to return home.
In Marcom's powerful, heartbreaking latest (after The Brick House), an undocumented college student makes the long odyssey back to California from Guatemala after being deported. Emilio Matias, 21, is a UC Berkeley student in 2012 when he gets in a car accident. After he is unable to produce a valid ID, the police turn him over to ICE, who jail him for months before sending him to his aunt's house in Todos Santos, Guatemala. Desperate to return to his home, his studies, his family, and his girlfriend in California, Emilio embarks on a violent and treacherous trip hopping freight trains with four other migrants. Along the way, members of their group become victims of thieves, rapists, and sadistic police, and must contend with unreliable smugglers. There are also safe houses and villagers who provide food, water, clothing, and medical care, and generous fellow migrants. Marcom's prose is steady and soulful, particularly during the graphic, harrowing account of an excruciating Sonora Desert crossing, and the narrative is deepened by a series of lyrical interludes describing dangerous journeys of unnamed refugees ("they and all of our stories are dark phenomena of this dark earth," one reflects). Marcom's remarkable tale credibly captures the desperation and despair of those who undertake the dangerous trek north.