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Living in Tucson, so closer to the border, we’re more acutely aware of immigration issues. It’s a hot issue here, and I’m always interested in reading more about the topic. I really enjoyed recently reading The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantu, so when I saw the book The Other Side by Juan Pablo Villalobos, I immediately grabbed it to read.
About The Other Side by Juan Pablo Villalobos
The Other Side: Stories of Central American Teen Refugees Who Dream of Crossing the Border is a short book, just 133 pages, and tells the stories of 11 children, most between the ages of 10 and 17, who successfully and unsuccessfully attempt to immigrate to the United States illegally.
Their stories are compelling and difficult to read. One girl was sexually assaulted by three men when walking home from school. Though she had never seen the men before, after the assault, they started hanging around her school and harassing her, threatening that if she told anyone, they would kill her family. Her mother decided it would be best if she immigrated to the United States so she could live with her father and be safe. She was lucky and was given asylum in the United States.
While about half of the children make it safely across and are living with family members in the United States, the other half were unsuccessful. The journey is just too arduous and dangerous; it’s amazing that anyone makes it across safely.
After reading this book, I can definitely understand why some people would risk everything for a chance in a new, safer country.
While I found the content compelling, I was not impressed with the layout of the book. Villalobos gives each child’s story about 5 to 10 pages in the book except for two children who Villalobos gives two segments in the book. However, because Villalobos put those two stories interspersed between other children’s segments, I found the format very confusing. I would have liked to have had the two segments for the same child follow one right after the other for continuity.
Also, in the back of the book, the author gives a one paragraph follow up of how each child is now doing. However, I would have liked to have read more. How are they adapting to American culture? Are they happy to be here? Have their lives improved? What do they find difficult about being here?
While I like the concept of this book, I think it could have been executed differently.
I give this book 3 out of 5 stars on the Mom’s Plans’ scale.