Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Everyone Is An Immigrant

A little while ago a friend of mine posted this article from Poetry Magazine onto his facebook captioned with Sensational. I wholeheartedly agree. The prose piece titled "Everyone Is An Immigrant: Poetry and Reportage in Lampedusa" is part poetry, part journalism, part personal journal. Eliza Griswold (who has written for the New Yorker, the Atlantic, the New York Times Magazine, Harper's, and the New Republic) writes from Lampedusa (a small island near Africa that belongs to Italy) and describes what happens as refugees flee to the island from Libya and elsewhere.

Find the piece here and give it a look!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Caramelo or Puro Cuento

Sandra Cisneros’ Caramelo or Puro Cuento is a large (439 pages) novel that follows the lives of a Mexican/Mexican-American family from Mexico to Chicago to Texas and back again to all those places. The novel is long and the story is sometimes winding, but the destination, in my opinion, was worth it.

How do you want to classify the book? It’s a coming of age story. It’s the saga of a family’s journey through the generations. It’s a tale of women. It’s a look at the nature of memory. It’s the story of Mexicans. It’s the story of Americans. It’s the story of Mexican-Americans--of immigrants and of the children of immigrants.

It’s the story of anyone anywhere who has ever lived in the in-between—not quite fitting in anywhere.

If you are in the mood for a novel and have a bit of time to work with, go ahead and pick this one up. 

One of my favorite lines from the book to close: 

“And I don’t know how it is with anyone else, but for me these things, that song, that time, that place, are all bound together in a country I am homesick for, that doesn’t exist anymore. They never existed. A country I invented. Like all emigrants caught between here and there” (434). 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

This Our Exile: A Spiritual Journey With the Refugees of East Africa

This Our Exile: A Spiritual Journey With the Refugees of East Africa by James Martin SJ is a great book on the refugee crisis in Africa. It was published in ’99, but is definitely still a relevant read. I checked the book out of the library and read the book a couple of years back on my plane ride to China (crossing my fingers and gambling that I wouldn’t lose the book on my trip!). This was my first introduction to James Martin who has turned out to be my very favorite Jesuit. (He also happens to be the “Official Chaplain” of the Colbert Report if any of you are thinking his name seems familiar.)

The book is a first person account of Father Jim’s time in Kenya helping refugees and the story of how it changed him. Before he became a Jesuit he worked for GE and was on the corporate fast track. He quickly found the corporate world unfulfilling and became a Jesuit instead. In Kenya he puts his business training to use helping refugees, mainly women, set up microenterprises.

In This Our Exile James Martin is part tour guide, part comedian, part historian, part theologian, and, maybe most importantly, part narrator of the stories of the people he meets.

The book is eye opening, easy to read and a great introduction to refugees and those who work with them all over the world. It’s so good in fact, I think I am going to have another read through it!

An excerpt from his introduction:

“The refugees in East Africa, people whom I had only read about in newspapers, people whose lives I (literally) couldn’t begin to imagine, transformed my heart in ways that I also couldn’t have imagined. Their lives, a full measure of sorrows and joys, forced me to confront the basic human questions of what it means to suffer pain and to experience happiness. Seeing how the lives of the refugees continually moved between the twin poles of despair and hope showed me what enables people to continue, despite incredible difficulties, and still believe in a good God. Or, as one redoubtable Rwandese woman (whom you will soon meet) would tell me, “God is very good!” Their magnificent openness to life helped me face my own difficulties more honestly, and to stay in Kenya despite some strong temptations to leave. Most especially, in coming to know the refugees, and in being invited into their lives, I came to know more fully what it means to love and be loved.”