The illegal immigrant is the bravest among us. The most modern among us. The prophet…The peasant knows the reality of our world decades before the California suburbanite will ever get the point. – Richard Rodriguez
By the Lake of Sleeping Children is Luis Alberto Urrea’s gripping follow up novel to Across the Wire. For anyone at odds with our neighbors across the border, this book is a Must Read. Urrea weaves together vignettes from the daily lives of people living in dumpsters, orphanages and shantytowns across the Mexican border.
Urrea describes their lives with dignity accounting for those who are so often overlooked in our society, those without a voice, those who wake up every day surrounded by our trash. These people often have no way out. In Spanish, there is an expression “desechable” or the throw aways and these people are tossed aside without a second glance. The people we try so hard to keep out are those who need a second look.
Urrea’s work is a narrative account of his travels to Mexico. He observes with the naked eye and conveys a gorey truth, a truth worth knowing, a truth often swept under the rug. In politics, Mexicans are an easy enemy, a scape goat. The truth he tells is one that is not easy to swallow. Like a bitter pill, Urrea forces the narrator to glimpse into the window of the “enemy” and after looking in, one will never be the same again.
Lately I have also been reading Raquel Cepeda’s Bird of Paradise: How I became Latina, a memoir about race and identity of the Dominican American hip hop journalist.
Cepeda overcame insurmountable odds while bouncing between the Domincan Republic and New York struggling to create an identity as a Latino minority growing up in the US.
Cepeda invites readers into her struggle as a Dominican American as she tries to puzzle together her identity through travel and DNA testing. The discoveries she makes are insightful and compassionate and she shares what it is like to struggle between two cultures.
An interesting theme Cepeda explores is spirituality and deep ancestral roots. Her trust in intuition and the power of her dreams and the spirits that guide her are a refreshing expression of faith. Her journey and her voice are a breath of fresh air.