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Infinite Country by Patricia Engel | Thoughts

   Published : 2021   ||    Format : print   ||    Location : Colombia ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆   What was it about the country that kept everyone hostage to its fantasy? The previous month, on its own soil, an American man went to his job at a plant and gunned down fourteen coworkers, and last spring alone there were four different school shootings. A nation at war with itself, yet people still spoke of it as some kind of paradise.. Thoughts : Infinite Country follows two characters - young Talia, who at the beginning of this book, escapes a girl’s reform school in North Colombia so that she can make her previously booked flight to the US. Before she can do that, she needs to travel many miles to reach her father and get her ticket to the rest of her family. As we follow Talia’s treacherous journey south, we learn about how she ended up in the reform school in the first place and why half her family resides in the US. Infinite Country tells the story of her family through the other protagonist, El

Reading about the immigrant experience | Notes from my Reading

This past weekend, I started my reading with a book that I hoped would be a fun but fast read. It sure was both but it also led me to more wonderful books (by virtue of Goodreads 'Readers Also Enjoyed'). Before I knew it, I was reading books about the Asian and immigrant experiences - two topics very dear to me and also among my favorite to read.

Books about immigrants 

After reading and loving The Bad Muslim Discount, I started looking for more books from South Asia, particularly those focused on the immigrant experience, mainly because I don't come across as many of these as I'd like. That led me to some really amazing books - Pashmina, Almost American Girl, and Good Talk

Of those four titles, Almost American Girl has got to be my favorite. Trying to blend in when you don't speak the language and look nothing like the majority population is extremely hard and Robin does a great job in showing the good, the bad, and the ugly, without shielding anything or anyone. Good Talk was just as good - about a second generation American citizen whose parents immigrated from India and is reminded often that she would never be seen as an American by default due to the color of her skin. 

All these books left me with so many thoughts and many more questions. Why do people leave their homes, seeking fortunes, a better life, sometimes a safer life elsewhere? And then you have countries like the US that are largely founded by immigrants and guided by the immigrant experience. These books give different perspectives to what it means to be an immigrant or the child of an immigrant. A very common thread in many of these books is the sense of not belonging anywhere - a feeling that is accentuated by frequent conversations where they are further judged by the color of their skin or their accent.

Other recommendations from previous years

In the past, I've read and loved The Namesake, Interpreter of Maladies, The House on Mango Street, The Buddha in the Attic, and quite a few others. One of my favorites continues to be Shaun Tan's The Arrival, a story told only in pictures (yet not a picture book). It's amazing how the feelings of nervousness, the wonder and worry aimed at the newness of the surroundings, the pressures from back home are expressed so well.

Another one of my favorites is a book I read last year - The Best We Could Do, about a Vietnamese family that moved to the US to escape from violence. The consequences of this decision are felt by their next generation as well as they wrestle with questions of identity and belonging.  

I have temporarily moved on to a different subject for now, but I am still looking for more books on the topic and will be returning to it. 

In the meantime, what is your favorite book on the immigrant experience?