Humane and helpful, Hellman removes the shrillness from the border debate to show what the crossers do and why they do...

THE WORLD OF MEXICAN MIGRANTS

THE ROCK AND THE HARD PLACE

A sympathetic, wide-ranging portrait of the lives of Mexicans on both sides of the border.

Go to the Mexican consulate in Tucson, Ariz., and you’ll be among the few waiting for services; go to the same consulate in New York City, and you’ll join a line a block long. That may seem odd, but to Hellman (Political Science/York Univ.; Mexican Lives, 1994, etc.) it speaks volumes about how central New York has become to border-crossers: “Mexicans—depending on whether we count both documented and undocumented people—have one of the highest, if not the highest, birthrates of any national group in the city.” But why travel so far from the border? For one thing, there are jobs available, even if too many of them require workers to swallow their pride, since protesting unfair conditions can lead to deportation. Yet there are other considerations, Hellman observes. It’s possible to get around by public transportation, which removes the need for private transportation and thus registrations, licenses and other things that require identification. Thus Staten Island and Long Island are full of esquineros, the men who wait on the corner for odd jobs and daily construction work. Meanwhile, down at the border, the Border Patrol is concerned not just with stemming the tide, but with triage. Says one top officer, “economic migrants are just the clutter that we need to brush away so we can get at the really bad guys…meaning the dope smugglers and the people smugglers.” The presence of so many Mexicans may make some Anglos nervous, but their self-appointed guardians in the so-called Minutemen aren’t much help; as critics note, they make big noise but mostly sit in lawn chairs and drink beer while the alambristas hop the fence to become esquineros and do the jobs no one else wants.

Humane and helpful, Hellman removes the shrillness from the border debate to show what the crossers do and why they do it—and why most Americans don’t object to their presence.

Pub Date: May 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-56584-838-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2008

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 12

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

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

Did you like this book?

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

more