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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

If I Tell You The Truth by Jasmin Kaur | Thoughts

    Published on: 2021   ||   Format: ebook   ||   Location: Canada

One line review: When Kiran runs away from home to another country, to escape her rapist, she doesn't realize how long it is going to take her to feel like herself again. 

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“Passports and boarding passes, please,” drawls the blond, goateed man, towering a foot above us both. I pass him both my and Mom’s documents and attempt the smile that every person of color has mastered. The one that reads, I’m thoroughly nonthreatening. Please don’t pull me aside and racially profile me.


I can't remember how I found this book or why I chose to read it. It was available on my library's Overdrive catalog and I'm glad I made the time to read it.

If I Tell You the Truth tells the story of Kiran's arrival in Canada as a pregnant graduate student, though in reality, she was also running away from her rapist back home in India. When she makes the decision to have the child, her parents abandon her, and with that, she realizes that it is up to her to make ends meet in this foreign country, where the only family she had, also rejected her. Very soon, she drops out of school and tries to find work, but this is easier said than done for an undocumented person. 

Although the book starts with Kiran's story, it very soon skips to her daughter, Sahaara's POV. Growing up, Sahaara had no idea of the terrors in her mother's past and it will be years before she learns about any of it, but these two facts - that her mother was raped and that she had no legal status in Canada - would somehow define both Kiran's and Sahaara's lives for many years. As a pregnant student new to the country, Kiran was lucky to meet Joti, who will be her friend for life, ally, and aunt/close friend to Sahaara. When all doors close, it is Joti's that stays open. But other than Joti's friendship and her daughter's love, there is not a lot that works in Kiran's favor. Her attempts to repair her status falls through and since then, she stays mostly in hiding. 

When teen Sahaara learns about all this, she wants to help but isn't sure how. When she has to choose between two diverging options - one that could guarantee her mother's stay in Canada and the other that will put her on the path of her dream career, she feels guilty that she doesn't know which is the right one. But it is the sinking feeling that comes with the knowledge of the rape that sends her in a spiral - she finds it hard to get past her conviction that she is the product of a violent moment.

If it isn't clear yet, this book has several trigger warnings - sexual assault, immigrant trauma, police brutality, domestic violence, and depression. There were parts that were painful to read but the author does a great job handling the characters and their various situations with respect. Things often go wrong for them, as they tend to for sexual assault survivors and undocumented immigrants but when they get an opportunity to speak up, they take the stage. The #metoo movement is featured as well and I appreciated that there is a focus on survivors of various social and economic situations as well. 

The most intriguing part of this book is its format - it is part poetry, part prose, and part illustrations. The flow between the forms is very deftly done and I couldn't decide if I preferred any particular form better. They all had their place and blended well. For the heavy subject matter that's covered in this book, the use of three different styles to express grief, pain, and sometimes victory, is very apt. I also appreciated that the author didn't try to tie everything with a nice bow so the experiences in the book did feel very realistic.

Have you read a book that mixes different writing forms?