McMahon, Tyler*: Dream of Another America (2018)
* RPCV El Salvador (1999-2002)
Discussion: Tuesday, July 2, 2019, 6:30-8:00 pm. Location at the home of Bill Stein, 4308 SE Lexington St in Portland, 503-830-0817. Participating in our discussion will be Tyler McMahon, the book’s author, via Skype. Feel free to bring snacks to share.
Review: © Kirkus Review: A Salvadoran father attempts the perilous journey to America while his wife and son stay behind in El Salvador to await his return. McMahon (Kilometer 99, 2014, etc.) spins a beautiful but heartbreaking tale of the classic migrant story, one of sacrifice, danger, and small victories for those who have left and those still at home. Jacinto, his wife Mina, and their 13-year-old son Wilmer live in a small rural town in El Salvador, still reeling from the destructive civil war that left thousands dead and many more permanently changed. Wilmer has asthma, which is a life-threatening condition in their small Salvadoran town that lacks electricity and clean running water. After a particularly serious asthma attack, Jacinto accepts a local smuggler’s expensive offer to get him to the United States, where he hopes to work and save enough to buy the medicine Wilmer needs. Jacinto faces an enormous setback early on, when his group gets lost in the Mexican desert, resulting in five deaths and his capture. He prepares to be bussed back to El Salvador, but in a strange twist of events, he finds himself with a second chance to cross the border into America. Back home in El Salvador, Mina and Wilmer attempt to maintain their livelihoods without Jacinto and without any updates on his whereabouts. The smuggler that arranged Jacinto’s original journey demands an exorbitant interest on their down payment and Wilmer is bullied at school by those who believe his father is dead. Without Jacinto to bring in an income and to stand up for his family, hope for Mina’s and Wilmer’s survival gradually deteriorates. These two parallel stories collide at a moment when all three appear to have little left to lose. Their story of suffering and sacrifice is devastating yet also embedded in love. Every sacrifice made on behalf of a loved one is a testament to human resilience and the fight for a better life. McMahon’s contribution to the body of immigrant literature is entrenched in questions of nationality, poverty, and family. He achieves a storytelling feat by creating an incredibly realistic narrative that is as poignant as it is breathtaking.