When we began the book, we suggested this as a place to begin our reflection/conversation:
As you read these stories, what are points of connection (things you can relate to because you can connect your own experience to the story) and points of disconnection (things you have a hard time relating to because you haven’t had any similar experience)?
I’ll go first:
What I want to say first about my experience with this book is that it showed me how little I knew or understood about all the different groups of people we collect under the umbrella term “Latinx.” That’s hard for me to admit out loud; it seems like I should have known in a different way that there are many different reasons people come here, and that they come from very different countries. I suppose I knew it on a superficial level, but I didn’t know know it until reading this book–which is part of why I believe stories have power. Somehow they can make things more real to us.
There are so many points of connection for me. As a teacher, I recognize the kinds of struggles Mayor faces at school. The four parents are all about the same age as me; I know what it was to be young during the same years they were. What I relate to most, though, is Alma’s drive to care for her daughter. I like to think that I, too, would do anything I needed to do for my kids. Maybe I would. But it is hard for me to imagine doing the things Alma and Arturo do to give Maribel what they feel she needs.
I’ve never visited (much less lived in) a country with a culture that is significantly different from my own. I visited European countries in 2002 and 2007, at a time when Americans were not terribly popular there (thanks, W.). I got to experience, just a bit, how challenging it is to navigate everyday things when you don’t speak the language or understanding how everyday things work. (Had an embarrassing experience in a parking garage once.) I got to experience, just a bit, how it is to be judged negatively because of the country I’m from. I understand just enough to empathize with Alma, even as I know that I can’t really know what it would be like to do what she did.
It’s hard for me to imagine leaving behind everything I’ve known, to live in an unfamiliar climate, in a place where I don’t have resources and don’t know the language. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be navigate the systems her family has to navigate. I imagine I would not handle any of it nearly as well as Alma does in this book. Seeing the kinds of challenges and the numbers helped me also come to know know how hard things must be for immigrants. Again, it was the kind of thing I knew abstractly, but seeing it in the context of the individual lives of this family leaves me knowing in a different way. It helps me understand how desperate things must have to be in immigrants’ home countries for them to come here, especially if they are poor and have little support when they arrive here.
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