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Enrique's Journey: The Story of a Boy's Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with His Mother Hardcover – February 21, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Soon to be turned into an HBO dramatic series, Nazario's account of a 17-year-old boy's harrowing attempt to find his mother in America won two Pulitzer Prizes when it first came out in the Los Angeles Times. Greatly expanded with fresh research, the story also makes a gripping book, one that viscerally conveys the experience of illegal immigration from Central America. Enrique's mother, Lourdes, left him in Honduras when he was five years old because she could barely afford to feed him and his sister, much less send them to school. Her plan was to sneak into the United States for a few years, work hard, send and save money, then move back to Honduras to be with her children. But 12 years later, she was still living in the U.S. and wiring money home. That's when Enrique became one of the thousands of children and teens who try to enter the U.S. illegally each year. Riding on the tops of freight trains through Mexico, these young migrants are preyed upon by gangsters and corrupt government officials. Many of them are mutilated by the journey; some go crazy. The breadth and depth of Nazario's research into this phenomenon is astounding, and she has crafted her findings into a story that is at once moving and polemical. Photos not seen by PW. (Feb. 28)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School Seeking to understand why Latina single mothers leave their children to come to the U.S., and why many children undertake the hazardous journey to reunite with them, Nazario traced one family's story. Enrique was determined to find his mother, who left him in Honduras when he was five. At 16, after seven attempts to make it to Texas, robbed by bandits or police, beaten, jailed, and deported again and again, he finally reached the Rio Grande and earned enough to call her. She sent him money to pay a coyote to smuggle him across the border and the two were reunited, but they are strangers now, their relationship strained. Meanwhile, Enrique's girlfriend in Honduras bore his child. Ultimately, she joined him, leaving their three-year-old daughter behind. Mothers leave their children to send back money for better food, clothing, and schooling, yet years of separation strain family ties. The author retraced Enrique's journey by traveling on top of trains, hitchhiking, taking buses, facing the dangers the teen faced. Photographs and interviews with him, family members, other children, and those who provide aid along the way document the hazards of migration. Descriptions of rapes, beatings, and jailing of immigrant children and accounts of those who suffered loss of limbs falling from freight trains are graphic and disturbing. But no one can doubt the authenticity of this reporting. Molly Connally, Chantilly Regional Library, Fairfax County, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (February 21, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400062055
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400062058
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (353 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #72,295 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Sonia Nazario ( has spent 20 years reporting and writing about social issues, most recently as a projects reporter for the Los Angeles Times. Her stories have tackled some of this country's most intractable problems: hunger, drug addiction, immigration.

She has won numerous national journalism and book awards and has been named among the most influential Latinos by Hispanic Business Magazine and a "trendsetter" by Hispanic Magazine. In 2012 Columbia Journalism Review named Nazario among "40 women who changed the media business in the past 40 years."

In 2003, her story of a Honduran boy's struggle to find his mother in the U.S., entitled "Enrique's Journey," won more than a dozen awards, among them the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing, the George Polk Award for International Reporting, the Grand Prize of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, and the National Assn. of Hispanic Journalists Guillermo Martinez-Marquez Award for Overall Excellence.

Expanded into a book, Enrique's Journey became a national bestseller, won two book awards, and is required reading for all incoming freshmen at 21 universities and dozens of high schools nationwide. It has been selected as a "One City, One Book" read by five cities, and is being made into a movie by Lifetime.

In 1998, Nazario was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for a series on children of drug addicted parents. And in 1994, she won a George Polk Award for Local Reporting for a series about hunger among schoolchildren in California.

Nazario, who grew up in Kansas and in Argentina, has written extensively from Latin America and about Latinos in the United States. She is a graduate of Williams College and has a master's degree in Latin American studies from the University of California, Berkeley. She began her career at the Wall Street Journal, where she reported from four bureaus: New York, Atlanta, Miami, and Los Angeles. In 1993, she joined the Los Angeles Times. She is now at work on her second book.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

82 of 86 people found the following review helpful By R. Spell VINE VOICE on March 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating book concerning the flood of young Central Americans coming to America and the treacherous journey they must undertake. But it looks at the influx of illegal aliens into America in a new light. These youths who travel by train up to 1,600 miles north through Mexico are coming to find their Mother's who have left them years ago to have money to support their kids back in Nicaragua, Honduras or Guatemala. Years before these mothers faced raising kids as a single mother as the tight Catholic families in these countries are pulling apart. With limited jobs, these women smuggle to America and send money back. But the emotional toll on these kids is traumatic and many choose to journey to America, many at an age much too young.

The Pulitzer Prize winning author rode the trains and researched completely the significant danger in the first state of Chiapas where the risk of being robbed, raped or killed is the greatest. The next state shows the true spirit of the Mexican people as many bring food and clothing to this rag-tag group of refugees. Great detail is spent describing areas to avoid and relationships with smugglers, police and "la migra", the immigration police.

The final part of the journey across the river to America is also traumatic and great detail is spent on different ways of crossing, many involving paying "coyotes" significant money to cross with no guarantees they will not be robbed.

But this book does not end there as finally Enrique finds his mother in North Carolina. But is she really a "Mother" since she hasn't seen her son in about 10 years? Obviously their relationship is unique and the book delves in to the difficulty.

You will be educated on a significant human rights issue effecting America.
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62 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Leo Rising on February 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As I continue discussing this book with my freshman composition students, I realize the story needs more context. My freshman are too quick to see ENRIQUE'S journey as THE IMMIGRANT journey--I remind them again and again that this is the story of ONE boy and his family. It's misleading to discuss our US immigration "problem" without putting it into the context of globalization. Nazario is clearly critical of the choices her subjects make, but what are the alternatives? It's fair to open this question for conversation, but if you read this story, realize that this is not the end of the discussion--it's barely the beginning. This should be used as an introduction to a discussion on immigration--not the basis for that discussion. A good teaching tool--but keep the discussion going and use other sources as well. A colleague in social science plans to use it in class: it's interesting how Nazario's characterization of Enrique is extremely sympathetic UNTIL he reaches the US border--once across it, he becomes, quite simply, a social problem.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Annmarie Jones on February 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I read this story when it was in the LA Times and couldn't wait for the book.

I read the story cover to cover in a weekend and thought it was the best non-fiction work I have read in years. Obviously, Ms. Nazario's story shows that our immigration problem isn't as simple as it seems. I was very moved by this story and urge everyone to read it.
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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Jijnasu Forever VINE VOICE on April 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In an excellent book based on the famous news feature series by the same journalist, the trials and tribulations of immigrant populations in economic, social, cultural, and emotional contexts is well highlighted. It is sheer coincidence that I happen to read this book the same day the US Senate reached a "compromise" on immigration reform. Lost in political debates of immigration, is the sheer human facets of the people involved. This book (just as the series did a few years ago) provides a human side to relate to when politicians/"experts" debate about immigration. The author is very careful not to condone illegal immigration by focusing on the human tolls of the people trying to get to the U.S. in any form, irrespective how miserably the previous several attempts have failed. Using the story of one teenager's quest for finding his mother as the central theme, the book explores the motivation of those who make such seemingly improbable decisions, the dangers of the travel itself, the role (or lack thereof) of governments, religious/charity organizations, communities along the travel route, and the misery from which these 'optimists' are trying to escape from. Any amount of objective analysis will not take away the immense emotional impact the book will have on a reader - the strains of motherhood and the pensive childhood of those left behind are exposed without any sensationalism. The sheer gravity of the story is compelling enough.

Written in a simple, yet powerful, narrative style, the author clearly enables the reader to imagine the journey described in the book. An absolute must-read, and perhaps one of the best non-fiction books. You will never view immigration as a political issue again (whether thats good or bad, is upto you)..guaranteed.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By George Bush HALL OF FAME on June 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The U.S. is experiencing the largest wave of immigration in its history, transforming it in the process. Each year an estimated 700,000 enter illegally and another million legally. A growing number are single mothers, leaving their children with relatives or neighbors.

Women in Honduras earn $40-120 per month in factories, cleaning houses, or providing child care. A hut with no bathroom or kitchen rents for almost $30/month. Many of their children are so malnourished they can't stand for long, and often they are taken out of school at a very early age to care for siblings or sell tortillas.

Every woman Nazario interviewed in the U.S. who had left children behind thought the separation would be brief. Reality is it takes years and years to reunite, and by the time it happens the children are usually very angry - feeling abandoned. Too often the boys seek out gangs to try and find the love they sought from their mothers; too often the girls get pregnant and form their own families. Most children who set out to rejoining their mothers don't make it.

Nazario spent over six months traveling in Honduras, Mexico, and the U.S. tracing and re-tracing Enrique's steps; in addition, she spent time with Enrique and interviewed him and his family.

Enrique's mother left him (with her estranged husband - his father) and his sister (with her own sister) when he was five. Unfortunately, Enrique is soon kicked out of his father's home by a new potential step-mother, and an uncle's after his new father-figure is murdered in a robbery. After about eleven years without her and an increasing glue-sniffing habit, he decides to join his mother in America.

Seven times Enrique is caught and returned to Honduras.
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