Thursday, December 24, 2020

Efrén Divided Provides Intimate Peek at Illegal Immigration Through the Eyes of Those It Impacts Most

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

In many ways, Efrén Nava is just like any other American seventh grader.  He hangs out with his best buddy, hides in the bathroom to get away from his pesky younger siblings, worries about how his ears stick out, wolfs down the food his mom makes, and is forever trying to convince his overprotective parents that he's ready for more independence.  His neighborhood is rundown and his apartment is tiny, but Efrén is surrounded by a caring family and a warm, vibrant Mexican-American community.  He is loved and protected.  And yet, he never quite feels safe.  Although he was born in America, his parents are in the country illegally, as are many of their neighbors and friends.  The threat of ICE raids and deportation is a constant dark cloud looming over them all.  

Efrén's worst fears come true when his mother is arrested and sent back to Mexico.  With his father taking on extra work to earn the money needed to bring her back home, he must step up and take care of his rowdy younger siblings.  In addition to wrangling rambunctious kindergarten twins, he still has to keep up with his schoolwork, help his BFF with a school election, and keep all his fears and worries in check.  Desperate to keep his family's problems a secret, Efrén is exhausted, terrified, and in need of help he's too scared to ask for.  Can he keep it all together so no one finds out what's really going on in his life?  Will his family ever be reunited?  How will Efrén cope when his entire world is falling apart?

No matter how you feel about U.S. immigration policies, border walls, and detention centers, you can't read a book like Efrén Divided by Ernesto Cisneros and not be moved.  The story is fictional, of course, but it mirrors the sad reality of many immigrant families who live lives marked by fear and division every day.  Cisneros provides an intimate peek at what that looks like and how it affects all members of a family that's already just doing its best to get by.  Efrén Divided features sympathetic characters, a compelling plot, and engaging prose.  It's a timely, impactful, discussion-worthy read that teaches empathy while exploring the explosive issue of Mexican immigration to the U.S. through the eyes of those it impacts most.  

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Land of the Cranes by Aida Salazar)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for difficult subject matter and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

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