To experience the fabric of a particular immigrant’s life, try The Walking, by Laleh Khadivi. You can read it in an afternoon. A Kurdish man chooses to leave Iran after he is forced to participate in a massacre of his own people. He saw a couple of movies with his mom, so he wants to go to Los Angeles.
Next, if the zany American politics on the immigration issue intrigue you, pick up Kind of Kin, by Rilla Askew. This book takes longer, and it will entertain you more. A coiffed, clever and amoral Michelle Bachman figure has introduced anti-immigrant legislation in Oklahoma.
First, the Kurdish man walks out of Iran, and into Turkey.
In an Oklahoma small town a white grandfather gets arrested on his ranch for harboring illegals. One old Mexican guy hides, though, and evades the bust.
Then he walks across Turkey, to the coast of the Aegean sea.
Recently widowed, the Mexican “illegal” wants to reach the only family he has left–his sons who are working in another town, and have promised to take care of him.
The Kurdish man manages to get on a cargo airplane, and when it lands, he runs, then walks, through the desolate warehouse districts that surround LAX.
A grandson–just a kid–returns to the ranch to look for his mother’s grave.
The Kurdish man walks all the way to the ocean. He sleeps there. He hasn’t bathed or eaten in days.
Since the mom died, this little guy has been placed with an aunt and her mean little kid who’s a carbon copy of his mean old dad, who in turn mimics the truly mean bully of a local sheriff.
The Kurd trudges through endless LA suburbs. A Spanish-speaking guy gives him a meal or two. He even gets to see a movie.
The Oklahoma kid’s older sister has herself married an illegal, who’s been deported, but sneaks back across the border. Many plot twists and turns, which disclosure would ruin.
Walking, walking, walking, eventually the immigrant finds the Iranian community where a rug merchant speaks his language and gives him a job. He even meets a girl.
In Oklahoma, the kid and the old Mexican guy take off walking, but the child gets sick. The book culminates with an American standoff between the sheriff and a meek clergyman, who surprises everyone, especially himself.
Yet there are no simple endings. In California the walking does not stop. In Oklahoma justice is not fully served.
Dislocation is the operative word. Read these books and you will understand quite a bit more of what that actually feels like.by