Chronicling “the lives lurking beneath the surface of the everyday.”
Garcia (Riding Through Katrina With the Red Baron’s Ghost: A Memoir of Friendship, Family and a Life Writing Stories, 2018, etc.) demonstrates his strong reporting skills and empathetic writing in this collection of pieces previously published in Guernica, McSweeney’s, Oxford American, and the Virginia Quarterly Review, among other publications. The timeliest piece is about the persecution of undocumented immigrants that has ramped up significantly since the election of Donald Trump. In a brief news story, the author learned about Sixto Paz, a Mexican man forestalling deportation by living in a church that “offered sanctuary to undocumented migrants.” Garcia traveled to Phoenix to meet Paz in person; as he has done so well in previous books, the author manages to extrapolate from this one individual’s story greater truths about a large down-and-out population. Garcia helps readers understand how the daily struggles that define and change his real-life protagonists are relevant to them. At times, the author inserts himself into the narratives, showing readers how his research and reporting affects him. Garcia closes the book with a story on Reynaldo Leal, a U.S. military veteran who completed two tours of duty in Iraq and began to realize, years later, that “most of the country has allowed the war to fade from its consciousness.” This piece is another in a long line of the author’s impressive stories about military veterans, their traumatic nightmares, and their less-than-adequate treatment by government agencies. Garcia also frequently investigates the broken U.S. criminal justice system, evident here in “What Happens After Sixteen Years in Prison?” The book’s subtitle rings true for each piece. One shortcoming: The anthology provides no value-added content, such as contextualizing sections or updates on the stories.
Compassionate, memorable tales from a journalist who understands the significance of revealing the inner lives of marginalized individuals.