A straightforward account of an illegal that comments eloquently on the human cost of globalization.

Legendary newspaper columnist and novelist (I Don’t Want to Go to Jail, p. 347, etc.) Breslin’s revealing and tragic saga of an illegal Mexican worker who perished in a 1999 New York City construction accident.

Eduardo Gutiérrez was born in 1978 into a family of bricklayers in the tiny town of San Matias, three hours from Mexico City. Sun-beaten and dirt-poor, San Matias was a place where one would be lucky to earn $20 a week, so its young men and women dreamed of emigration north to the US, a magical land whose $4 and $5/hour jobs cleaning, cooking, or hauling promised a bountiful future. In 1998, Eduardo made the arduous pilgrimage, paying $1,500 to an immigrant smuggler, known as a coyote, to spirit him across the border. Breslin examines the border-crossing system in detail, describing how the coyotes stash their clients in Mexican border-town hotel rooms until the moment appears right; they then smuggle their charges onto airplanes, force them to wade across rivers with perilous currents, or guide them through deserts where daytime temperatures soar to 120. In New York City, Eduardo lived in a cramped apartment with several other illegals, rarely venturing outside except to go to work, for fear of encountering police or immigration officers. Breslin depicts the illegal’s life as a lonely one, separated from loved ones, barely comprehending American life, with few opportunities for socializing. The author is scathing in his portrait of the Hassidic real-estate developers in Williamsburg, Brooklyn who—rather than employ qualified construction workers at $23/hour—hire men like Eduardo for just $7/hour. Shoddy building standards, backlogged city inspection agencies, and politicians afraid to antagonize the politically powerful Hasids, set the stage for the November 1999 building collapse that took Eduardo’s life. He and his fellow Mexicans knew that the structure on which they worked each day was dangerously unstable; and, predictably, those guilty escaped with minimal punishment. Breslin’s at his best offering crisp reportage about the rough-and-tumble politics of New York City; his writing gets a bit clunky in the sections set in Mexico, which tend to the novelistic. But Eduardo’s story itself is compelling enough to pull the story along.

A straightforward account of an illegal that comments eloquently on the human cost of globalization.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60827-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2001


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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