¡Mira, Look!: La Linea

Immigration and border studies are two of the most difficult, and indeed poignant, topics to discuss with youth. How do you explain the issues in a sensitive non-partisan way? What words do you use (i.e. “illegal”, “migrant”, “undocumented”)? How do you impress upon our youth that it is likely a number of their classmates came from across la frontera (the border) and what, if any, implications does that hold? While I don’t have definitive answers for these questions, I do have a suggestion for your 13+ readers to get the class discussion going: La Linea by Ann Jaramillo. Miguel’s parents migrated to the US years ago in order to provide a better life for he and his sister, Elena. Eventually, it is time for Miguel to join them… Elena has ideas about tagging along as well. However, crossing the border is both dangerous and expensive. How do you cross then? Many choose, “the mata gente. The people killer. An ordinary freight train. And the only way to go North without paying a peso” (La Linea). So Miguel and Elena make their way to the mata gente in order to reunite with their parents, whom they have hardly ever known.

Jaramillo’s writing style will especially enthrall youth readers as it is quick, descriptive and interesting. Teachers (and adult readers alike) will smile at the frequent gems of sentences such as, “Miguel Carlos Octavio de Cervantes, he named me, after the authors he admired. Those were his saints, so those were the names I got.” Beautiful prose is weaved throughout the book, which both teens and adults will find tug at their hearts, “Elena had grown up without a mother, so she hoarded what she could of Mama, her letters. The words were like little drops of water to a person dying of thirst–enough to give hope; not enough to make a difference.”

A story about the progression of migration, from why parents must chose to leave their children, where they chose to go, how they chose to get there and how hard they work to bring their families together again is a wonderful way to get the dialogue on this difficult topic started. The hardships people endure can be told in a way that instead of alienating us, draws us up close, brings us in and opens our hearts and minds to the discussion. I hope La Linea will do this for your classroom.

–Ailesha Dahl de Gilbran y otros yo no he leido todavia

Yes, I think that will do nicely for now.

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