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Month: November 2011

Thanks for commenting!

Go Big Read aims to foster discussion within the community, and so we are especially appreciative of your comments on blog posts! Here’s some comments from Go Big Read blog readers. What do you think?

On a student’s response to the book:

“Like Nazario said, immigrants, in many ways, help our economy. They do
hard, low-paying jobs that most Americans do not want. Their cheap
labor keeps prices low for Americans. If, in fact, they do cause an
extra “burden,” why do you care, when for most immigrant families it is a
matter of survival? If you were not born into this privileged society,
wouldn’t you want someone to take a little of that “weight” for you?”

“I think it is heartbreaking everytime we hear about these
people and their stuggles for getting to a please where they might have a
better life. And yes, we should confront the problems, and not just
look at them.”

On “A Better Life” film shows the true-life struggles of illegal immigrants”

“I’m going to watch this movie. I live in CA and the
illegal immigrant topic is a hot one here as well as in AZ. Most of
these people just want to come to the US to make a living. Nearly all
of them leave families behind and then send their wages back to mexico.
I see them every day here and most are hard workers. Thanks for the

On “CBS News: Farm Labor: Children in the Fields”

“It’s tragic that in a developed country such as the US and
in this day and age child labour is still a reality. Its astonishing to
me that children as young as 12 are legally allowed to work as
labourers. On the other hand I can see that for many families this is
the only way to survive. Sad.”

Thanks for visiting the Go Big Read blog! We hope you’ll continue to leave comments about Enrique’s Journey and the Go Big Read program.

Opportunities to Get Involved

Whether you’re going out of town over the next few days or staying in Madison, take Go Big Read with you! Even though the fall semester is slowly drawing to a close, there are still opportunities to get involved.

  • Check out Our Nations of Others, a chance to submit your original creative responses to Enrique’s Journey.
  • Read student responses to the book on the Go Big Read blog! Leave your own comments, too.
  • Follow Go Big Read on Facebook and on Twitter. We’d love to hear what you have to say!

Sign Up to Use Enrique’s Journey in a Spring Course!

It’s almost November, and the fall semester is winding down! If you’re a faculty member interested in using Enrique’s Journey for a spring semester course, please fill out our Copies Request form. When the semester begins, we’ll use these to send out coupons that students can use to obtain a free copy of the book from one of the campus libraries. Many classes have already signed up to use the book- check out the running list for the year here!

Please contact Go Big Read with any questions or concerns. We ask that those interested let us know via the Copies Request form by January 13, 2012.

Student Responses: Jessica Indresiano

Since this is a blog posting, I am going to save space and not sugarcoat my critique. I also think it is important to note, that I am reading this book through the lens that it was a Go Big Read book. This text is supposed to “promote connections among students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the wider community”, engage the community in academic discussions, create new learning experiences, and broaden views of the world.

In light of those lofty goals, Enrique’s Journey, while a gripping read, was an intellectual disappointment. Nazario’s journalistic approach is sensationalist to seemingly no end and a little voyeuristic. The theme of determination and love conquering all is a trite simplification of complex social and political forces informing migration practices.

Nazario’s “fly on the wall” approach feeds into the already narrow view of immigration that exists in mainstream discourse. Yes, this approach allows for empathizing. However, what it fails to do is illustrate the systemic circumstances that produced the conditions for both Enrique and his mom’s migration. Overall, as a reader, I was left with no tools to handle the empathy, anger, and frustration I felt while reading a harrowing story of the real-life near death encounters migrants make.

The idea that all you need is love and determination to succeed is naïve at best. How does love triumph over starvation? While Nazzario reported facts on unemployment and immigration numbers, they were not contextualized beyond statistics. I was left with a myriad of questions after reading this text: Why is the unemployment rate so high in Honduras? Why are women disproportionately affected? How do American foreign and economic policies contribute to migration patterns? What historic conditions produced such economic inequity in Honduras? Was there a military dictatorship? (If so, what was the US’s role?) Why do so many women “abandon” their children? Why is a grandmother raising her grandchild not considered a legitimate family/kinship form? Looking at the gendered aspect of this, why is only the mother’s love important?

What few answers Nazario does provide seem only to fall into the trope of the US being the saviors and progressive bastion to the backwardness of third world countries. This is clear in the general premise of the story, and Enrique’s hope that life will be better in the US. However, Nazario’s own language helps support the first world/third world dichotomy, inevitably placing the power in the hands of the first world. She writes, “Immigrants who return to their home countries also bring skills acquired while living in a more technologically advanced country… They bring lower levels of tolerance for corruption and stronger demands for democratic processes” (249). The problem with statements like these includes overgeneralization and an ivory tower lens of analysis. Instead of humanizing a struggle of immigration-related problems, Nazario totes a false sense of unity that just barely conceals an attitude that fits more appropriately with an exclusionary view of what immigrants provide toward American society. Nazario could, instead, have touted a view of seeing what people coming from foreign countries can provide to a theory of American intellect, culture, and society. This quote is just one small example of the classical, anti-foreign influence Go Big Read touts itself as standing against.

The logical conclusion of all this neoliberal hoopla is that all us rich, well-off northerners who now feel guilty about our privilege should just send our money to help all those poor folks with their backwards ideas. Obviously, sending money to border churches and other groups is noble and a valid use of funds. However, it will not solve the “problems of immigration” Nazario sought to brush over: childcare, education rights, food, access to potable water, etc. If you really have an issue with a child getting an education in this country because their family illegally migrated here for whatever reason, sending money is not going to help.

In my view, Nazario’s text itself does little to provide anything more than a heart wrenching mainstream view of how horrible it is for all those non-Americans. My sarcasm aside, I think that the University should reconsider a stand-alone book with such a narrow view as a Go Big Read book. Supplements or any contextualization would have been appreciated. I am glad I was able to read this class in the context of an immigration course. I think it would have been quite useless otherwise. The most I can hope for is that the Go Big Read blog proves me wrong and people actual engage the text beyond itself.

Jessica Indresiano

Student Responses: Sarah Haydostian

While presenting her work at the Go Big Read lecture, Sonia Nazario told her audience one of her goals in writing about immigration is to humanize immigrants so the public will look at this issue in a new way. Her objective in putting herself in the middle of the action is to write a compelling story so that her readers will become educated, and perhaps do something to help. Reading Enrique’s Journey, she wanted her readers to feel as though they were on top of the trains with the migrants in order to understand how difficult their journey is. While I appreciate Nazario’s efforts to provide a complete picture of the struggle the migrants endure in order to reach the United States, I still felt as though there was a missing piece to the story after I left the lecture. There were aspects to the journey I felt were absent while reading the novel, and my hope of Nazario filling in those gaps at the lecture was short-lived. I felt the story concentrated on the narrative, while ignoring larger political forces. Although I feel it is important to highlight the difficult journey people like Enrique face, it is also important to look beyond their personal struggle and have a complete understanding of why they must make the journey.

The focus of Nazario’s lecture was the determination that leads Central American children to ride on top of trains in order to find their mothers in the United States. This approach reduces immigration to a personal choice, while failing to provide broader contextual influences that create impoverished countries that migrants choose to leave. Nazario’s lecture, much like her novel, was framed in a manner that did not encourage her audience to think beyond the material she presented. Though she argued her writing aims to encourage people to think about immigration, one could argue we are only supposed to think about it through a certain lens.

Similarly to how I felt after reading Enrique’s Journey, I left the lecture feeling frustrated, but not having a clear sense of what to do with that frustration. By describing in detail the brutality and harsh conditions the migrants faced, Nazario evoked anger and sadness in her readers, but did not provide a way to reconcile these emotions. Though she discussed the idea of the United States buying medical scrubs from Honduras instead of China, I doubt many audience members felt personal responsibility for this issue. It is important to discuss larger issues like these in which the United States plays a role in the economies of these countries; however, I did not feel I was told how I could do anything to change these policies. And while Nazario did bring up ways students can get involved, either through buying fair-trade products or donating money to Heifer International, I believe more can be done. Although my personal feelings about Enrique’s Journey are complex, I can only hope that Nazario’s novel is fulfilling its goal and prompting people to think about immigration differently than they have previously.

Sarah Haydostian
Communication Arts 610

Student Responses: Vanessa Akem

After reading the book Enrique’s Journey I put it on my bookshelf and sat there, trying to understand the hollow feeling I had in my stomach. It was as if I had eaten a nice little appetizer but the waiter had forgotten to give me the entre and I was still left hungry. Flipping through the pages again I began to put my thoughts together and realized that at least for me, Enrique’s Journey had humanized the face of immigration but had left me no big beefy concepts to think over in my mind: the story of the immigrant had remained just that, Enrique’s story and there were many larger issues at hand that I believe the author Sonia Nazario failed to interrogate or leave us with.

Nazario sprinkles many nuggets of information that she then chooses not to elaborate on further concerning the issue of the economy of immigration, in particular the migrant as a body commoditized. One particular scene that exemplified this was when a badly injured Enrique arrived to a village, sparking a debate over whether to give him assistance that was coldly discussed in the amount it would cost to bury his body versus give him medicine. Routinely through his journey Enrique either experienced, observed, or heard of banditos that would mug immigrants for food and money or even authority figures that were willing to turn a blind eye to these activities in turn for a bribe. I feel as though Nazario could have brought out more how immigrants such as Enrique become a part of the cogs of a community’s infrastructure, literally providing a means of living that in a twisted way this industry may help a country.

In even broader contexts, Enrique’s Journey has undercurrents of neo-liberalism that operate within Enrique’s world and sharing borders with our own. The trains used as the main form of transportation of these migrants carry cargo such as gleaming cars that are headed to the US border to be driven by citizens by us. The parallel of the car and undocumented workers being “cargo” on their way to work within our economy is a rupture in the text outside of Enrique’s travels and helped me to start thinking about capitalism, private property and lasses faire economics – leaving the market to take care of itself. How fitting that Enrique is also left to take care of himself too. The smugglers and gangs that operate in this environment carry guns that I also questioned as to where they obtained them. Who brought the guns into this country? Was it a domestic purchase or from other countries with looser gun control policies? Neo liberalism in an international context very much brings a relevance to Enrique’s Journey that I feel if Nazario had interrogated more could have really engaged her readers to see that his story is in reality one that affects all of us.

Yet although these are suggestions that are begging to be further explored Nazario remains very much in the “present” of the story, ultimately privileging the story line of Enrique over a larger national narrative. Her authorial voice is loud and clear in the prologue and epilogue yet disappears in the middle of the text – citing academic sources at selective opportunities yet subsuming herself in the character of Enrique. The book allows us to easily brush along all of these issues suggested and instead allows us to draw focus on affective issues: The story of a boy trying to find his mother.

Ultimately Nazario has successfully created a more empathetic depiction of an undocumented immigrant, she fails to really delve into the capitalistic mechanics of immigration that reach far beyond Enrique’s experience and affect the US economy and therefore our own experiences. I found the same technique mirrored in the Go Big Read lecture where Nazario used the majority of her hour to talking about her methodology and the actual story itself before offering a 7-minute reflection on the implication immigration has on our country. This troubled me as a member of the audience because these few minutes of review gave me no basis on which to critique critically process Nazario’s stance on immigration. Much like after reading the book, I left Union South wanting more.

Vanessa Akem

Student Responses: Lynnette Adabele Quiles

Sonia Nazario writer of Enrique’s Journey attempts to start a dialogue about immigration specifically exposing the horrors of children crossing South American borders up through Mexico into the United States in search for their mothers. Nazario exposes mothers crossing the border to where they believe success lies and opportunity for their families is possible. Enrique’s Journey is nothing more than a book of exposure. It graphically details the horrors of those trying to make a living on nothing in South America and Nazario also documents the lost limbs, drug abuse, sexual abuse, battery, beatings, murder, starvation, and the list goes on. The problem is Nazario stops at these exposures and does not offer anything else to her audience leaving them angry or just sad about the situation and not able to grasp an understanding of the problem and how we as people play a significant role.

Enrique’s Journey along with Nazario’s lecture series at the University of Madison-Wisconsin encompassed the idea of “pornography of the real” which involves the viewing of images or reading of real suffering, death and destruction of people who are generally casted as ‘other’ and being left with some sort of pleasure from the experience. That pleasure being sadness from seeing graphic images of children’s limbs missing from falling off the tops of train carts or witnessing Enrique almost beaten to death by gang members on the tops of trains, and anger from witnessing mothers leave their children behind to search for money to send to their children or bring back so they will live a better life and not starve. Nazario fails to bring her audience to think about immigration and their role within this system in the United States or else where. She makes no connection or understanding of the implications of the immigration system.

Being a student who has studied immigration and the connections of sexuality and immigration, I can see Nazario’s very small beginning attempts to open up that conversation but without a background in such studies it makes it very hard to see such exposures as an opening to the conversation. Viewing immigration from that of a queer migrant, and by queer migrant I mean those in society who are marginalized and cast as ‘other’, raises critical questions regarding sexual identity in a cross-cultural setting. It appears to be a common theme of migrating for reasons concerning discrimination, finding success financially, finding others who are like them somewhere else. Many writers such as Cantu and Luibeid have raised the idea of there being a construction and regulation of immigrants’ sexual identities within U.S. policies and rhetoric. Nazario just gives her audience the graphics and not the meaning.

The border is seen as a constant state of transition and creates a stronger idea of “Us” vs. “them”. I have learned that sexuality is a power that shapes the process of migration. Nazario loses the conversation of immigration within the graphic images written in detail throughout the book. If Sonia Nazario has been working with the concept of immigration for 20 plus years, as she stated in her lecture, she needs to be writing works that spark her audience to raise questions such as how do we get a nation to broaden its understandings of words such as sexuality and citizenship? How do we eliminate these binaries that have been in the U.S. dominant logic for so long and how do we reconstruct the U.S. dominant logic? These questions are important to look into and find solutions. If Nazario is going to use Enrique’s narrative she must expose the corruption within U.S. immigration policies and their construction or regulation of identity at the border. The border is not only being that dividing line between states but within the work force and other social settings that creates binaries.

Lynnette Adabele Quiles

Student Responses: Michelle Ruse

As I was sitting in the lecture hall of Union South, about 6 rows back from the front of the stage, I quietly listened as Sonia Nazario gave her speech on her book Enrique’s Journey. I looked around at the audience made up of students, professors, and other middle-class Wisconsinites and watched how they nodded in agreement with Nazario’s seemingly factual arguments and shook their heads in disgust at the gruesome details of her journey on the trains in Mexico. At the beginning of her speech Nazario said to the audience, “My goal is to grab you by the throat and take you on a ride and hopefully educate you about an issue along the way.” True to her word I think that this is exactly what Nazario accomplished—she wove a story of emotion and pain and churned out compassion toward immigrants within the audience. But that was it. Nazario’s lecture was basically a summary of her book Enrique’s Journey. Although it would have been interesting and simulating to those people who did not read the book, I’m assuming that the majority of the audience would have read the book and then came to see her speak, so I’m not quite sure why she just summarized her book that everyone had already read. Yet, everyone seemed to be captivated by the heartbreaking stories Nazario was telling during her speech, even though they had already read the same stories in the book just days before.

Yes, okay, I know this might be exaggerating the situation just a bit, but Nazario’s lecture was really a let down for me. I wanted her to go into detail on how she made her arguments, why she did this “reporting” on immigrant children, what the outcome of Enrique’s Journey was, and what would be some plausible solutions to this large issue at hand. Yet she seemed to just talk about her experience on the trains and such (basically what was in the book) and then started to talk about how the United States needs to help Central America with their own economy so immigrants will want to go back to their own countries and they will not want to come to America. Apparently these were some of her solutions to the issue and she did not really elaborate very much on them.

For the majority of her lecture Nazario talked about her journey on the trains. She states, “I really wanted to show people all the dangers these kids face, and what this is like for children to make the journey… So I decided to do the journey myself.” Yes it is true that she made this journey, but she never states the outcomes of her journey and what it has done to help these children. She says that, “I have written about this issue for more than two decades now, but honestly there were things that I did not get about this issue until I made this journey.” If she has written about this issue of immigration in the United States for more than 20 years, then why has she not researched more on the issue and used scholarly sources in her books and lectures? Her writing seems to be more stories then facts. I would agree that she is a great storyteller and it is great research to have done the journey in general, but I wanted to know what else she had done on this issue. Is the book Enrique’s Journey the only thing that has come out of the reporting she has done in Central America and Mexico?

I believe that Nazario’s lecture and her book Enrique’s Journey sheds some light on a very serious issue of immigration to the U.S., but I think that that is all that it does. Nazario writes this book, tells the story and then spreads the word to American citizens all over the U.S. and then she starts all over again. There seems to be no solution to her story, she just spreads the word about an issue and leaves it at that. It is because of this that I did not quite enjoy Nazario lecture as much as I wish I would have.

Michelle Ruse

Sources: (Transcript)

Middleton Students Raise Funds for Tegucigalpa School

Before I had even read Enrique’s Journey, I was impacted by the presence of poverty in Honduras. I spent a few days there in a rural town building a playground in 2007, and my brother travelled to there with a team in the summer of 2010 and toured a school across the street from the landfill in Tegucigalpa–the very one featured in one of the colored photos from Nazario’s book.

As a result of our time spent in Honduras, my brother and I each started projects to raise funds for the school across from the garbage dump, AFE (Amor, Fe, y Esperanza). My friend and I purchased a button maker and got to work making unique buttons to sell, while my brother and his two best friends dreamt of something a little larger–a basketball tournament.

On a Saturday last April, the first annual Slam Dump 3v3 Basketball Tournament took place in the fieldhouse at Middleton High School. My brother, then an eighth grader, and his friends had their work cut out for them as they put together a registration system, planned a bracket and prizes, and organized volunteers for the fourteen-team tournament. Besides raising awareness for the poverty in Honduras, the tournament raised over twelve hundred dollars for AFE, which went towards building classrooms and providing scholarships for teenagers like Enrique to go to college.

As a result of reading Enrique’s Journey and my participation in a Socratic Discussion on the book on October 19th, I have become more aware of poverty’s impact on illegal immigration. The poverty that my brother and I witnessed in Honduras directly influences the people that courageously face whatever fate a journey such as Enrique’s may bring. The discussion two weeks ago make me realize that we must change and try to eradicate the poverty in Honduras and other suffering nations before we can expect to see a decrease in the number of illegal immigrants arriving in the United States. This elimination of poverty begins with education. It begins with schools like AFE that reach out to those most in need of a way to better their lives. It begins with people deciding to make a difference.

The Slam Dump Tournament was started by a single middle schooler and two friends and in its first year raised enough money to give a teenager like Enrique the chance to go to college. What, then, might be possible with the will of a group as large as the University of Wisconsin-Madison community?

The second annual Slam Dump Tournament is planned for March 24th, 2012. If you are interested in entering a team or volunteering, please email Ben Hershberger at

Jenna Hershberger
Senior at Middleton High School