Posts Tagged immigration
No More Boats by Felicity Castagna. Europa Editions| February 2019| 250 pages | $17.00| ISBN: 9781609455095
Addressing many hot button topics—immigration, the working poor, migrants, terrorism, political asylum, national identity—No More Boats is a thoughtful and powerful novel. I became quickly engrossed and couldn’t put it down. Set in a working-class suburb outside Sydney, Australia, the novel focuses on a retired construction worker’s reaction and subsequent mental breakdown when hundreds of refugees remain stranded in a boat off the coast of Australia due to political debates. It’s known as the “Tampa affair.” This occurred in 2001, in the months leading up to 9/11.
An Italian immigrant, Antonio finds himself forced to retire after injuring himself during a construction accident that kills his best friend—“They were the last of their kind. There was no one else to talk to, really; they had outlasted all the other people like them. Now the young Aussies sat with the children of people like them who had migrated too long ago for anyone to remember that they were migrants too.” Extremely frustrated and hopeless, Antonio paints “No More Boats” in front of his house. This leads to much debate within the neighborhood and community. The white supremacy group welcomes Antonio to its meetings. It pushes his already dissatisfied family over the edge. His wife questions their relationship. His adult children—Clare and Francis—seem rather aimless. Clare quit her teaching job to work at a bookstore although she never told her parents. Francis would rather smoke and party than work. Everyone’s affected by Antonio’s seemingly rash action.
I love the daughter Clare. She’s socially awkward and rather nerdy, preferring to read rather than anything else. She has an on-again-off-again boyfriend–“What she would like to do, really, was spend the rest of the evening reading in bed. She wanted to fall asleep with a book by her side and get up again tomorrow morning and read it some more and now that she’d had sex with Richard she could do these things and stop feeling like she hadn’t put some kind of effort into the outside world.” Clare explains her father: “I just think, he’s old and he’s angry that he’s not in control anymore. He’s always had a thing about migrants these days not working as hard, not trying to fit in as much as he did but, you know, it’s nothing extreme, just the usual racism, I guess.” One day one of Clare’s former high school students, Paul, arrives in the store to work and they start to hang out often together. Paul is of Vietnamese descent and despite the age difference, they find many commonalities. She explains her former political activism: “I was like crazy busy with self-invention. I joined all those anti-nuclear marches and spent the night chained to a chair inside the Vice Chancellor’s office. I got kind of stuck in this vortex of radicalism. It sucks you in. Mostly, the social side of it. I was just like awkward and bookish and I didn’t know how to talk to people, so it worked for me. You know, people shouting slogans all the time. I didn’t have to talk and nobody noticed me, but I got to be in this big crowd of people. I could convince myself that I was never lonely, but I was always alone. I’m not sure if anyone really even knew I existed.”
I became quickly engulfed in No More Boats. It draws you in and you’ll think about the characters and subject matter long after finishing it.
–review by Amy Steele
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Europa Editions.
My New American Life , by Francine Prose. Publisher: Harper (April 26, 2011). Literary fiction. Hardcover, 320 pages.
Lula was twenty-six. Old, she thought on dark days. Only twenty-six, on bright ones. She had time, but she had more time if she stayed in this country. She wanted to learn that American trick, staying young till forty. She Some American girls even got better looking. Not like Eastern Europeans, who started off ahead but fell of a cliff and scrambled back up a grandma.
Somehow I’ve never read anything by prolific author Francine Prose. She’s written 18 novels and I’ve been told her book Reading like a Writer offers fantastic advice. Lula, an Albanian immigrant, works as a pseudo-nanny watching a high-school age boy while his father works on Wall Street. Using crisp dialogue, vivid descriptions and biting humor, Prose chronicles Lulu’s struggles with capitalizing on the American dream while simultaneously attempting to keep some Albanian thugs from ruining everything.
Lula is a scrappy, astute character. While her job is cushy, she’s smart and realizes it will end soon and she’s calculating a way to gain citizenship and remain in the United States. Lulu writes stories that both her boss and attorney both find charming—old world tales of Soviet Bloc Albania and its backward ways. Lulu’s a magnificent liar and whether that gets her into trouble or not remains a major theme throughout the novel. My New American Life cleverly satirizes immigration and the American dream.
Since it was pouring rain today, I decided to go to a movie. I was soaking wet but I got a hot tea and a tub of popcorn and headed in to the Coolidge Corner Theatre to see Sin Nombre. [I wanted to see a funny film like Adventureland but the timing was just right with this film.] Sin Nombre holds a basic premise in which a young girl in Honduras, Sayra [Paulina Gaitan], reunites with her father who now lives in New Jersey. Once in Mexico, they plan to travel across the U.S. border along with her uncle. The journey is far from easy. The trio must take a train there and avoid any trouble: border patrol, police, and gangs which are plentiful in Latin America. Simultaneously, we are introduced to Willy [Edgar Flores], aka El Caspar, who runs with the viscous Mexican Mara gang but he seems ambivalent about his participation. He also has brought in a young recruit named Smiley [Kristian Ferrer] who eagerly takes to the gangster lifestyle while Willy withdraws further and isolates himself more and more. Willy has fallen in love and does not want to follow the leader’s orders any longer and wants to spend time with the girl. He vehemently protects her from his lifestyle but soon the two worlds collide with disastrous results. The gang leader is furious and the consequences turn severe.
In a split decision, Willy decides his fate with the gang and finds himself on the same train as Sayra. Both are escaping Mexico but for very different reasons. Sayra is drawn to Willy and Willy cannot help but to become protective of Sayra. While Sayra remains filled with hopes for a new future in a new country and plenty of opportunities, Willy can only think short-term as he knows there’s a hit on him. This heartfelt film surprises the audience by constantly showing aspects of people you’d never expect. Sin Nombre is a remarkable, thought-provoking, potent thriller that will stay with you for days.