Friday, November 11, 2011

Student Responses: Sarah Haydostian

While presenting her work at the Go Big Read lecture, Sonia Nazario told her audience one of her goals in writing about immigration is to humanize immigrants so the public will look at this issue in a new way. Her objective in putting herself in the middle of the action is to write a compelling story so that her readers will become educated, and perhaps do something to help. Reading Enrique’s Journey, she wanted her readers to feel as though they were on top of the trains with the migrants in order to understand how difficult their journey is. While I appreciate Nazario’s efforts to provide a complete picture of the struggle the migrants endure in order to reach the United States, I still felt as though there was a missing piece to the story after I left the lecture. There were aspects to the journey I felt were absent while reading the novel, and my hope of Nazario filling in those gaps at the lecture was short-lived. I felt the story concentrated on the narrative, while ignoring larger political forces. Although I feel it is important to highlight the difficult journey people like Enrique face, it is also important to look beyond their personal struggle and have a complete understanding of why they must make the journey.

The focus of Nazario’s lecture was the determination that leads Central American children to ride on top of trains in order to find their mothers in the United States. This approach reduces immigration to a personal choice, while failing to provide broader contextual influences that create impoverished countries that migrants choose to leave. Nazario’s lecture, much like her novel, was framed in a manner that did not encourage her audience to think beyond the material she presented. Though she argued her writing aims to encourage people to think about immigration, one could argue we are only supposed to think about it through a certain lens.

Similarly to how I felt after reading Enrique’s Journey, I left the lecture feeling frustrated, but not having a clear sense of what to do with that frustration. By describing in detail the brutality and harsh conditions the migrants faced, Nazario evoked anger and sadness in her readers, but did not provide a way to reconcile these emotions. Though she discussed the idea of the United States buying medical scrubs from Honduras instead of China, I doubt many audience members felt personal responsibility for this issue. It is important to discuss larger issues like these in which the United States plays a role in the economies of these countries; however, I did not feel I was told how I could do anything to change these policies. And while Nazario did bring up ways students can get involved, either through buying fair-trade products or donating money to Heifer International, I believe more can be done. Although my personal feelings about Enrique’s Journey are complex, I can only hope that Nazario’s novel is fulfilling its goal and prompting people to think about immigration differently than they have previously.

Sarah Haydostian
Communication Arts 610

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