Children Whose Names We Do Not Know
Welcome to “Book Bytes;” I am Dr. Mary Scott, Professor of Biology at Dodge City Community College. I want to introduce you to We are Not from Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez. This gut wrenching, acclaimed novel is based on factual research of the dangerous routes followed by undocumented immigrants desperate to get to the United States. The best summary of this novel is provided by Sanchez’s dedication in the books preface. I want to share with you part of that quote: the children whose names we do not know, whose existence and demise have been hidden…For the children lost along the journey, the ones caught in between, guided only by their fragile hope, whose ghosts roam the borders and deserts of countries that failed them. You deserved so much more.
Sanchez connects us to the hopes of three Guatemalan teenagers, Pulga, Pequena, and Chico. She tells the story from the perspective of each of the teens, strongly developing each of their characters so you cannot help but be drawn into the story. You join the three in their hometown where survival is a daily fight. Here, you will also connect with the despair of mothers trying to keep their children safe, the grief of a community that does not see justice and encourages young people to leave for a better life elsewhere, as well as be introduced to Pulga’s dream that inspires hope for Pequena and Chico. Chico is Pulga’s adopted brother who saw his mother murdered, and Pequena is Pulga’s beautiful cousin. Pequena’s life is turned upside down when she attracts the attention of a local criminal or gang leader obsessed with his power. Her reason for running away is being forced into a marriage with him she does not want.
Pulga has listened and planned for years a possible escape. When Pulga and Chico realize their lives are threatened and have little choice, they flee for their lives. Although he does not yet know Pequena’s secrets he knows she is troubled and begs her to come with them. There are people who give the three comfort, care and hope along their journey, and you are reminded that there are good people around the globe, but you are also introduced to more dangerous people seeking to steal from, rape, and murder the fleeing men, women, and children.
A large part of the journey is on La Bestia, a train that is known as a death train due to the many dangers of illegal freight train travel. I found myself hoping that the three teens and other immigrants they meet would all make it safely to the United States. Only Pequena and Pulga make it to the last part of the journey, walking across the desert, only to be picked up by border patrol. Thus, you also get a glimpse into what it may be like in custody. The teens gave up their home to save their lives, will they lose everything to get what they deserve?
Jenny Torres Sanchez has brought to life the plight of many at the southern border of the United States. This is a haunting tale with no humor, but a must read if you desire to understand why one would risk their live for an “American Dream.” I’m Dr. Mary Scott for the High Plains Public Radio Readers Book Club’s Summer Reading List. Thank you for listening and please consider reading We are not from here by Jenny Torres Sanchez.