A harrowing firsthand account of inhumane immigration policies with which we all must come to terms.

MY BOY WILL DIE OF SORROW

A MEMOIR OF IMMIGRATION FROM THE FRONT LINES

A powerful mix of human rights memoir and examination of America’s flawed immigration policies.

In summer 2018, the Trump administration instituted a heavily restrictive zero tolerance policy that resulted in the separation of thousands of children from their parents, regardless of their rights as asylum seekers. For Olivares, deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center Immigrant Justice Project and an immigrant from Mexico, this story struck home—literally. The author lives in the Rio Grande Valley, an area saturated with Mexican culture, where the realities of immigration have never been far away. A mixture of poignant legal insight, vivid hometown familiarity, and personal struggle, his account includes interviews with immigrants alongside analyses of complicated legal processes and a history of the southern border. Zero tolerance, Olivares reminds us, is only part of a broader history. While widespread family detention began under Barack Obama, the author traces its origins further back, to racially discriminatory immigration policies as old as the nation itself. As we follow Olivares through his many visits to the U.S. District Court in McAllen, Texas, and conversations with migrant parents, we see the countless shameful obstacles put in their way. In touching and often heartbreaking sections, the author introduces us to a Guatemalan man of Mayan descent who was separated from his daughter and accused of human trafficking for not speaking Spanish well enough; a father who, with instinctive foresight, told his daughter to prepare to be taken away to a "summer camp"; officials from private prison companies MTC and GEO Group, both of which have reaped huge profits from the drama and suffering of migrants; and government officials who mock the cries of separated children, some despite being children of immigrants themselves. Regarding one agent, Olivares writes, “Did he not see himself, or his family, his ancestors who came to this country before he did, in the faces and the cries of these children?”

A harrowing firsthand account of inhumane immigration policies with which we all must come to terms.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-306-84728-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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