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ALL Book Reviews Migration The New York Times Book Review

Writers Retreat

Imagine an 18th-century London town house, once a fashionable address but recently home to successive huddled masses: Jewish refugees, Irish then Bangladeshi then Somali immigrants. Now fill that house with 30 foreign writers who have fled oppression and violence, all asylum seekers specially chosen for favored treatment. Call them “fellows.” Hang identity cards, with their mug shots petrified in plastic, around their necks. Appoint a chairman whose paranoia and megalomania recall, in madcap picayune, the dictators who tortured and imprisoned many of them. Outfit the house with security cameras that scan the corridors, the surveillance tapes complemented by the human watchfulness of ever-­solicitous volunteers. What you have is the premise for “The House of Journalists,” the former BBC reporter Tim Finch’s clever debut novel.

In an outburst toward the novel’s end, when one fellow disappears along with all traces that he existed, the power-­obsessed chairman name-drops Orwell, an unsubtle clue to Finch’s ambitions as a political satirist and his interest in language as a political tool. But aspects of his novel bear more resemblance to the “Big Brother” of global reality television than to “1984.”

Continue reading my review in The New York Times Book Review.

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Book Reviews Migration Ms. Magazine

The Cooked Seed

The Cooked Seed traces Anchee Min’s evolution from a woman with shattered self-esteem to one with brass enough to have a child when she wanted, although her Chinese-immigrant partner didn’t, and then to divorce him and find love with an American, a Vietnam veteran. Like him, Min suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, and her prose bears the marks. Her book reads like the testimony of a woman who, in coping with haunting memories she’d rather suppress, swings between remembering too much and too little. Therefore, she simply tells it as it happened, in the order it happened, all of it. See my full review of the book in Ms. Magazine’s Spring issue.

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ALL Essays Migration Nieman Reports

Writing a Life, Living a Writer’s Life

The Winter 2011 issue of Nieman Reports, a publication of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, focuses on books and the book industry. It features an essay by me on discovering that, as the German critic Theodor Adorno put it, “in exile, the only house is that of writing.”

 

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ALL Articles Migration Politics The Nation

Nativists Get A Tea-Party Makeover

The Nation – The Minutemen were the largest border vigilante group in the country before financial scandals and criminal violence tore the group apart. Now former leaders are bringing their anti-immigrant politics inside the Tea Party. Read my piece for The Nation. (Thanks to The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund for providing support.)

Minutemen gather near Tombstone, Arizona in 2005, in the above photo by Mark Ebner.

Categories
Articles Migration The Nation

Reporter’s Notebook

Read “On the Migrant Trail,” my dispatch from the U.S.-Mexico border for The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund. I spent a day in the desert with the Samaritans Patrol and took this photo of the border wall in Sasabe, Arizona.