This book moved me to tears! Literally, I was sobbing (not just slow tears running down my face!). Something about the way Engel writes is so impactful that it emotionally destroyed me. I’ve read books that make me sad and that I reflect on for a long time, but few books have made me feel so deeply that it felt like it was truly happening to me and my family.
Infinite Country is about a family split between two countries: the United States and Colombia. Mauro and Elena decide to travel to America in seach of a better life, but when Mauro is deported, Elena is left to figure out how to care for her three children. She makes the heartwrenching decision to send the baby back to Colombia to be raised by her mother and Mauro because it’s impossible to find childcare for a baby while she works to make money to keep her family afloat.
“She blamed herself for displacing her own children, especially her girls. Karina and Talia, binational, each born in one country and raised in another like repotted flowers, creatures forced to live in the wrong habitat.”Patricia Engel, “Infinite Country”
When the baby, now fifteen years old, decides she wants to go back to her mother and siblings in America, Mauro is left behind. He doesn’t begrudge his daughter’s desires to go, but where does it leave him? Sadly, this is a situation many families are way too familiar with, and the way Engel writes about it ripped my heart out. It’s important to read stories like this because it’s quite simple for us “documented” Americans to take this life and country for granted. When we have no fear of being deported or torn away from our families, it’s easy to turn a blind eye to the intricacies of immigration policy in this country.
“I remember wondering what it must feel like to belong to American whiteness and to know you can do whatever you want because nobody you love is deportable. Your worst crime might get you locked up forever but they’ll never take away your claim to this country.”Patricia Engel, “Infinite Country”
If you’d like other book suggestions about trying to make a life in America as an “undocumented” person, I’d also recommend The Affairs of the Falcóns (read my thoughts here) and The Undocumented Americans (read my thoughts here).
“That’s because as long as we’re here, we’re vulnerable. Until something changes in the laws and the climate so that people understand we are not the enemy.”Patricia Engel, “Infinite Country”