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The Far Away Brothers - Lauren Markham - <span class="date-display-single">11/03/2017 - 6:00pm</span>

The Far Away Brothers

11/03/2017 - 6:00pm

Central Library - Community Room 301

Lauren Markham has been reporting on undocumented immigration for a nearly a decade, but it was not as a journalist that she first met seventeen-year-old Ernesto and Raul Flores, who had recently emigrated from El Salvador alone. She was working at Oakland International High School, a school for recent immigrants where she coordinates programs for families, when the Flores twins walked into her office, scared stiff, having just missed their date in immigration court. That meeting grew into the illuminating and harrowing story she tells in The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life.


The Flores twins (their names have been changed to protect their anonymity) told Markham why they had come to America, but it left her with many more questions: What were such children really risking—and enduring—to come to the U.S.? And why were so many coming now? When she started at Oakland International the school had enrolled a few unaccompanied minors, but they now, after a nation-wide surge that has shown no signs of stopping, make up more than a quarter of the school’s student population. What was the likelihood the Flores twins would gain the right to stay, and would they really be better off if they did? “Answering those questions became a personal imperative,” says Markham, “one that would help me better understand my students, my country, and the endless churn of southern migration into the United States.”


To learn more about the Flores family’s story and that of the hundreds of thousands of migrants like them, Markham spent two years traveling throughout the United States, Mexico, and El Salvador. Her investigation took her to prisons, migrant shelters, deportation hearings, narco territory, border cemeteries, and gang arrests. She also spent countless hours with the Flores twins and their extended family in Oakland and El Salvador, in service of rendering their stories and circumstances with a humane roundness reminiscent of Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers. Between them the Flores twins have been touched by robbery, rape, and murder, and contended with, among other challenges, PTSD, self-harm, teenage pregnancy, unstable living arrangements, and crushing debt.  But it is not only the “wounds of war” their story illustrates, says Markham; it is “the spirit of a new generation of immigrants, and the impact of migration on the United States as well as on the tiny, time-battered country of El Salvador.”   


In the past few years, hundreds of thousands of minors, paperless and parentless, have crossed into the U.S. In a time when immigration is in the daily headlines yet is too often reduced to a matter of binary politics, The Far Away Brothers seeks to offer a complex understanding of who those children are, the choices they’ve made, and what their stories reveal about our country.

Lauren Markham

About Presenter Lauren Markham


Lauren Markham is a writer and reporter based in Northern California. She writes fiction, essays and journalism - mostly about migration, youth and the environment. Markham's work has appeared in outlets such as VQR (where she is a Contributing Editor), The New Yorker.com, The GuardianThe New Republic, GuernicaVICE MagazineOrion, California Sunday, The Utne Reader, Pacific Standard, and on This American Life. She's a graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts' MFA in writing program and has the great fortune of having been awarded fellowships from the Mesa Refuge, the UC Berkeley 11th Hour Food & Farming Journalism Fellowship, The French American Foundation, The Rotary Foundation, and the Middlebury Fellowship in Environmental Journalism. In addition to writing, Markham works at a high school for immigrant youth in the Bay Area.


The Far Away Brothers

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