THESE 3 NOVELS DETAIL THE PAIN OF SEPARATION FOR MIGRANT FAMILIES

Never before have so many people fled their homes. According to the United Nations, the number has reached 68.5 million, with only about 100,000 of them resettled. Millions have left behind war, violence, and famine only to face new challenges: children separated from their parents in the United States, extended stays in squalid camps in Greece, and migrant ships turned back by Italian officials. These three writers account for the difficult decisions and hard realities families face when they gamble everything they know to search for something better.

 

Inspired by the story of an undocumented Guatemalan woman whose 5-year-old son was adopted away from her by an American couple in Missouri, writer Shanthi Sekaran follows two immigrant mothers in her novel Lucky Boy. One crossed the U.S.-Mexico border without papers, the other followed her husband to Silicon Valley from India. Their stories cross around one “lucky boy.”

In Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, writer Laila Lalami follows four people who, like many thousands in recent years, risk their lives on a rubber dinghy on the Mediterranean in hopes of a new life in Europe. They each have their own reasons for craving an escape -- abusive marriages to demeaning work to troubled children -- and each are driven by hope for a life that will be better, just as soon as it isn’t so foreboding.

 

Writer Jenny Erpenbeck captures the diversity of migrants streaming into Germany in her Go, Went, Gone. The book follows a retired academic, Richard, who happens upon a group of migrants camping out in a park only to make their lives the focus of a new study that is as much about the individual men he encounters as it is about the treatment of the “other” in Western Europe. Erpenbeck makes clear in this work that resilience is no one’s first reason for living.

PRESIDENT OBAMA WANTS YOU TO BE EMPATHETIC LIKE ATTICUS FINCH. DON'T.

PRESIDENT OBAMA WANTS YOU TO BE EMPATHETIC LIKE ATTICUS FINCH. DON'T.

In his farewell address, President Obama invoked the glorified version of To Kill a Mockingbird's Atticus Finch who has been incorrectly read as a civil rights hero for decades. 

FOR ZADIE SMITH, THE CLOUDS HAVE ROLLED IN OVER MULTICULTURALISM

FOR ZADIE SMITH, THE CLOUDS HAVE ROLLED IN OVER MULTICULTURALISM

“On November 10 The New York Times reported that nearly seven in ten Republicans prefer America as it was in the 1950s,” Smith said, “A nostalgia of course entirely unavailable to a person like me, for in that period I could not vote, marry my husband, have my children, work in the university I work in, or live in my neighborhood.” 

IN REMEMBERANCE OF A NOVELIST WHO TAUGHT ACROSS RACIAL LINES

IN REMEMBERANCE OF A NOVELIST WHO TAUGHT ACROSS RACIAL LINES

After a year and a half of unemployment, E.R. Braithwaite decided to try teaching and is posted to one of the worst schools in London’s East End -- and even there was confronted by the specter of racism. The experience became the subject of his novel, To Sir, With Love.

FOUR POEMS FOR YOUR POST-ELECTION FEELINGS

FOUR POEMS FOR YOUR POST-ELECTION FEELINGS

The election that declared Republican Donald Trump president-elect on Tuesday has been the most divisive in recent history. Here are four poems that cut across some of the main issues that have emerged in the face off between he and Democratic Candidate Hillary Clinton. 

TRUMP, TRUTH, AND ALL THE KING'S MEN

TRUMP, TRUTH, AND ALL THE KING'S MEN

Like the rising demogogue at the heart of Robert Penn Warren's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, All The King's Men, Trump understands that he is liberated from the burden of fact just so long as he continues to depict a reality that renders as True. 

HOW A STEINBECK NOVEL FORETOLD TRUMP'S AMERICA

HOW A STEINBECK NOVEL FORETOLD TRUMP'S AMERICA

The Winter of Our Discontent is marked by the same sort of nationalism that has been given pride of place on the electoral stage. At the close of the first black president’s tenure, there has been a heightening of hate. The staggering reinvigoration of white supremacy--let’s call it like it is--is a response what some commentators have observed as a pushback against President Obama as a symbol for racial advancement. The racist underpinnings of presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign are, for some, a way to set back the “rightful” order of this country -- you know, to “make America great again.” 

(3+7) (Q&A) ON LANGSTON HUGHES' SONG FOR AMERICA, SEXUALITY, AND IMPACT ON BLACK LIVES MATTER

(3+7) (Q&A) ON LANGSTON HUGHES' SONG FOR AMERICA, SEXUALITY, AND IMPACT ON BLACK LIVES MATTER

As outrage over the killings of unarmed black men by white police hours plays again rattles the nation, Langston Hughes’ poetry of protest has become only more prescient. 

IS 'THE HANDMAID'S TALE' A PROPHESY FOR AMERICA'S FUTURE?

IS 'THE HANDMAID'S TALE' A PROPHESY FOR AMERICA'S FUTURE?

Margaret Atwood's 30-year-old novel sheds a dark light on today's attacks against women from how rape cases are handled to allegations against Planned Parenthood.

(3+7) (Q&A) WITH POET DUNYA MIKHAIL ON THE WOMEN HELD CAPTIVE BY ISIS, REFUGEES, AND CENSORSHIP

(3+7) (Q&A) WITH POET DUNYA MIKHAIL ON THE WOMEN HELD CAPTIVE BY ISIS, REFUGEES, AND CENSORSHIP

Dunya Mikhail returned to her home country of Iraq after 20 years in the United States to understand the lives of women who were held captive by ISIS. Their stories are the subject of her latest book. 

PEAK OF GREATNESS: ON THE AFTERLIVES OF OLYMPIANS

PEAK OF GREATNESS: ON THE AFTERLIVES OF OLYMPIANS

With so much focused on the time between the opening ceremony and the podium, how could becoming a regular person again feel like anything but failure? 

FOR QUEER MUSLIMS, ISLAMIC POETRY REPRESENTS SOLACE AND ACCEPTANCE

FOR QUEER MUSLIMS, ISLAMIC POETRY REPRESENTS SOLACE AND ACCEPTANCE

Given the prevalence of queer perspectives and homosexual references in Islamic poetry, it’s hugely ironic that LGBTQ Muslims around the world struggle to live out their sexual and gender identities.

JOY HARJO, NATIONAL PARKS, AND THE 'BEGINNING AND END' OF RECOGNIZING TRIBAL HISTORIES

JOY HARJO, NATIONAL PARKS, AND THE 'BEGINNING AND END' OF RECOGNIZING TRIBAL HISTORIES

Although every National Park was once inhabited or used by Native people, their stories are glaringly absent in this year's centennial celebrations of the National Parks Service as “America’s best idea.” Poet, musician, and member of the Mvskoke Nation, Joy Harjo takes the United States' limited account for tribal histories to task in her poem, "Someone Talking." 

5 NOVELS THAT SHOW WHY ATTACKS ON GAY CLUBS ARE SO DEVASTATING

5 NOVELS THAT SHOW WHY ATTACKS ON GAY CLUBS ARE SO DEVASTATING

The attack on the Orlando, Florida gay club Pulse was not just a violation of a safe space, but a desecration of a place of celebration for a community still engaged in very real battles against marginalization, discrimination, and all out violence. These five novels show the importance of such venues to the LGBT community and offer a glimpse of just what was lost along with 49 lives in the most deadly mass shooting in U.S. history.

(3+7) (Q&A) WITH POET RICHARD BLANCO ON THE 'MATTERS OF THE SEA' BETWEEN CUBA AND AMERICA

(3+7) (Q&A) WITH POET RICHARD BLANCO ON THE 'MATTERS OF THE SEA' BETWEEN CUBA AND AMERICA

Cuban-American poet Richard Blanco, who read an original work at President Obama’s second inauguration ceremony in 2013, was asked to write and share a poem for the historic re-opening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana in August. THE ALIGNIST’s Beenish Ahmed spoke to him about the challenges of composing a poem for such a personally and politically significant occasion, and about Cuba – and America – have changed for him since amid renewed ties between the two countries.

(3+7) (Q&A) ON A FRENCH MEMOIRIST WHO BELIEVED THAT 'TO WRITE IS TO PROSTITUTE ONESELF'

(3+7) (Q&A) ON A FRENCH MEMOIRIST WHO BELIEVED THAT 'TO WRITE IS TO PROSTITUTE ONESELF'

Although a new film and documentary about Violette Leduc’s life have added to her popularity in recent years, the groundbreaking writer remains largely unread outside of France. THE ALIGNIST’s Beenish Ahmed called up New York University professor Elisabeth Ladenson to talk about Leduc’s troubled life and unsung legacy -- but mostly, about her unsparing prose. 

'I STILL CHASE THE LIGHT,' A PALESTINIAN POET APPEALS HIS DEATH SENTENCE IN SAUDI ARABIA

'I STILL CHASE THE LIGHT,' A PALESTINIAN POET APPEALS HIS DEATH SENTENCE IN SAUDI ARABIA

"I forgot to tell you...that in the practical sense of the word/ I've grown used to your absence/ and that my wishes have lost their way to your desires/ and my memory has begun to corrode/ And that I still chase the light, not because I want to see...the dark always frightens/ even when we're used to it." 

(3+7) (Q&A) WITH RAFIA ZAKARIA ON HER BOOK, THE UPSTAIRS WIFE

(3+7) (Q&A) WITH RAFIA ZAKARIA ON HER BOOK, THE UPSTAIRS WIFE

Rarely is sexism considered to be a menace akin to that of sectarianism in Pakistan. It's even rarer that the omission of the country's most marginalized from their place within classrooms and within textbooks is called into question. In her book, The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan, Rafia Zakaria does both.

FIVE NOVELS THAT HELPED MAKE SENSE OF THE WORLD IN 2015

FIVE NOVELS THAT HELPED MAKE SENSE OF THE WORLD IN 2015

2015 saw more than a million migrants land on the shores of Europe, the launch of a reconfigured campaign against terror, a shocking array of mass killings, and far more. Here are five books which shed light on some of those events and more. 

SANDRA BLAND, TAMIR RICE, AND 'WHERE YOU WILL GET FROM HERE'

SANDRA BLAND, TAMIR RICE, AND 'WHERE YOU WILL GET FROM HERE'

"And when the woman with the multiple degrees says, I didn't know black women could get cancer, instinctively you take two steps back though all urgency leaves the possibility of any kind of relationship as you realize nowhere is where you will get from here."