Posts Tagged immigration
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.