A little over a year ago, a friend shoved a Young Adult novel into my hands. “You have to read this,” she told me. It didn’t take much explanation to figure out why. Dream Things True was a story of a U.S. citizen falling in love with an undocumented immigrant.
It was my story.
Well, the girl was from Mexico and the boy was the nephew of a senator. And they were in high school. And the white boy knew very little about the challenges faced by immigrants. And there was a lot of making out in the pool house. So it wasn’t my story exactly.
But that didn’t stop me from tweeting the author, Marie Marquardt, to tell her, “You wrote my story, and I loved it.”
And since she also lives in Atlanta, I asked if she’d be willing to meet with me. And she was. She also graciously agreed to let me interview her about the book. Marie is amazing, and we have become friends and kindred spirits in our desire to offer welcome and hospitality to immigrants.
So when Marie told me she was releasing her second book, Radius of Us, in January 2017, I was over the moon. I RSVP’d to the book launch, where I bought my copy and immediately devoured it. It took me just over a day to finish the story.
I want to say the book was good, which it was, but it was also hard. Radius of Us is another romance with immigration laced throughout the storyline. However, this book focuses on Phoenix, a 19-year old from El Salvador who brought his younger brother up through Mexico into the States as an "unaccompanied minor." They are asylum seekers, and their lives are threatened by gangs in their home country.
Both Phoenix and Gretchen, the girl he meets in a park, have experienced trauma. And as the story proceeds, layers of their difficult experiences are pulled back and exposed. Additionally, Phoenix’s little brother Ari, who is being held in a detention facility, has stopped speaking due to the trauma he experienced crossing through Mexico and into the States.
So while I want to say it was a fun and easy read because it has some of my favorite things of YA fiction - fast-pace, relatable characters, and young love - it is also painful to read. Because it’s based on real stories. Thankfully, the YA genre spares the graphic details that make some immigration tales too much for me to read, but it doesn’t shy away from the harsh experiences of many young migrants.
I wanted to share this book with y’all because I know many readers at A Life with Subtitles care deeply about immigrants and immigrant issues. Radius of Us is an enjoyable YA fiction novel, but it also allows an inside glimpse at the realities many are living through in our midst. It’s a great discussion starter for YA groups, though I will tell you that the book contains language and sexuality.
So I encourage you to get a copy of Radius of Us! I believe that stories and relationships change hearts. As anti-immigrant rhetoric gains traction in our country, it's important that we hear and share the stories of those who come here seeking refuge and freedom. Radius of Us is a great one!
Note: This post includes my Amazon link to the book. If you order through this link, a small kickback goes to A Life with Subtitles, so thank you very much!