The book Enrique’s journey by Sonia Nazario is a tale of migration that won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing giving consideration to high literary quality and originality in 2003. It tells the tale of a teenager from Honduras who travels into the heart of America illegally, in search of his mother. It is about his Odyssey, where he illegally migrates to the USA in order to see his mother and live with her. And through this grand journey the author completely succeeds in presenting a portrait of the horrors that children face during the search for a home.
An analysis of the book reveals that the book contains enough material to be used as an effective tool for teaching diverse subjects to students from the Middle School level to the University level. The adaptability of the book to the reader, despite his level of learning, his race, his caste or his status in society is incredible. The book is so compelling that it suits students of all categories irrespective of their race and religion, caste or creed, evidenced by the fact that the book has been translated to 8 languages.
The book can provide very attractive scenes for the students who can vary from the middle school through college. Enrique’s disappointment with his stays at the house of relatives and with the lack of sympathy from his father, all would find several echoes in the heart of the youngsters attending the course. The relationship of the boy with his mother is also another point of interest in the book. At home, after his mother left him, Enrique survives on the rare phone calls and her promises to be there for Christmas. Finally he decides that he could hold out no longer.
But the fact is that Enrique is searching in his heart for a home, rather than a house to stay. He feels that his journey across the border would be the only hardship he has to face, to attain his goal. But the hurdle he crosses includes gangs, narrow escapes, missing of trains caused by slight delays and even the changes in his mother’s attitude. He finds that his mother is completely different from the person that he left at home. But it is to the credit of both the mother and the son that the relationship is not strained. On the other hand, Lourdes, the mother, is compelled by her ego not to return home.
If she returned home, how could she face her children empty handed? She would be speechless before criticism. So, like many mothers stranded on this golden desert, she stays on and on in the hope that she would be able to bring her children to America, one day. Even smuggling is considered by her as an option. But the risk and the money involved are too big for her. And there were cases where the children had been abandoned by the smuggler when threatened. She was also afraid of the drugs and gangs in her locality, which could influence her children.
So she decides that they would be safe with her relatives. And finally, when she meets with her son she finds a stranger instead of the toddler she left at home. Each boy would feel some connection with at least one character in the book. So the intrigue and the clashes of personality would capture the keen interest of the young generation and lead them to think much more about the value of relations and family in their life. The reader is enchanted with the scenic delights which find a sympathetic echo in his heart of hearts, since humanity has the same emotions anywhere in the world.
Another aspect of ‘Enrique’s Journey’ is its usefulness while dealing with the four strands connected with language learning. Reading, writing, communication and research can all be integrated easily with the teaching of the book. The English teachers in this country have really “lend their ears” to this book, to help their students learn English up to the standards offered by the NCTE. It may be noted that it holds many parallels in the curriculum of the present day syllabuses of most universities. For example it may directly be connected to ‘The Odyssey’ by Homer.
Like Odysseus, the boy’s journey can easily be made into an epic journey, full of adventure and adversity. Another book that has parallel’s with the present one would be “Huckleberry Finn’ by Mark Twain. These books are from two different genres, suitable for different age groups, yet I was able to make a connection to these books in this non-fiction work by Sonia Nazario. In addition, the common problems of families can be made an easy tool for discussion and most of the students are sure to have faced it. Thus, it generates communication in a more lively way in the classrooms.
Moreover, the finer aspects of the boy have been really highlighted by the writing skill of the author. The literary aspect of the book is also worth analyzing. The author does not conclude with the hero attaining his goal of reaching a home. It goes on to the eternal strife of man to reach the United States of America and better prospects. He is portrayed as one of the few lucky one’s able to reach their loved one. More often the Odyssey is a fruitless one. Even after meeting with each other, the struggle that ensues between the mother and the son is portrayed beautifully by Sonia Nazario.
The use of figures of speech in her descriptions is also wonderful. These include “The Iron Worm”, The Train of Death”, The Pilgrim’s Train”, “The Iron Horse”, and “The Train that Devours”. All these descriptions are for the same object, but in different contexts. Such material is an English teacher’s delight. Ultimately, it should be known that the Pulitzer was also for the achievement in literary excellence. The book is a fantastic example of a social commentary as it involves different characters and different story lines. It is a multiethnic group of characters that follow a plot, with an ample setting and suitable theme.
It follows the journey of Lourdes and her son Enrique through the modern wasteland within America. The different motivations and desires of the multiple characters encourage an analysis within the classroom that would hold the attention of any group of children. Let us see how far these story lines would attention be effective in the class room situation. The book, in my opinion, is a social commentary, involving the immigrant laws of America and Central American countries and Mexico. It also deals with the poverty that is prevalent in USA as well as these countries.
The people whom Enrique comes in contact with are really worthy of attention in any social studies classroom, or for that matter any classroom. Thinking about this in depth, we find that this book helps in learning the trends in the immigration levels of different communities into the United States. At a time when America is reaffirming its heredity as a nation of immigrants, it is justified to be teaching a book about the level of immigration into the country. Teachers can trace the difference in immigration patters like that of the Southern Europeans in 1900s and also the modern levels of immigration.
The different components that sparked these levels of immigration and the different conditions that caused the increased levels of illegal immigration can also be analyzed in classrooms. The book is comparable with similar books about the immigrant experience like Kaffir boy by Mark Mathabane and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. The book is, to the best of my conviction a grand treatise in investigative journalism, of the twenty first century. Beyond a book of adventure, it compares with ‘The Silent Spring’ by Rachel Carson or Upton Sinclair’s, ‘The Jungle’ or even ‘Fast Food Nation’ by Eric Schlosser.
As Mrs. Carson caused an investigation into the matters of the environmental pollution and the after effects of man made chemicals and manures, thus the book ‘Enrique’s Journey’ has presented the American public with a view of the darker side of immigration. It has really contributed to a whole hearted approach to the problem of immigration of even toddlers, and how they are made to face judges even without a lawyer to represent them. Such children are deported back to their own country with a great risk to their lives.
The author herself has initiated many programs like providing lawyers for such children after the success of the book. It might be hoped that its readers would feel moved to a deeper understanding of the immigrants who work near and around them. The exodus of the boy was traced out by the author, so that she could “see and experience things as he had with the hope describing them more fully”. She interviewed the family in Honduras, visited his haunts, and traveled more than sixteen hundred miles which included traveling atop trains as the boy had experienced similar fears like the one he had experienced.
Thus “a terrible beauty was born”. Conclusion This book was a good exposition for me to the dark side of immigration as well as the courage that could be shown by a person. On the other hand, it showed to me the determination of an author who was ready to go to any length to hold a mirror against the unseen truth, so as to bring it to light (Nazario). Works cited: Nazario, Sonia. Enrique’s Journey. Manhattan: Random House Trade Paperbacks. 2007