The Baker Teacher Leader Center and Building Community Initiative are excited to partner once again with the UNESCO City of Literature through the UI Center for Human Rights. The University of Iowa Center for Human Rights and Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature are pleased to announce their selection for One Community, One Book 2019: ‘The Far Away Brothers’ by Lauren Markham.

The Far Away Brothers

The Far Away Brothers
This year’s selection tells the story of identical twin brothers who are forced to leave their home in El Salvador under the brutal conditions of war and violence. They make their way to Oakland, California where they have to adjust to their new lives.

Markham’s storytelling captures rich and nuanced insight into the migrant experience. Of the book, The New York Times’ Jennifer Senior writes, “The Far Away Brothers’ is impeccably timed, intimately reported and beautifully expressed. Markham brings people and places to rumbling life; she has that rare ability to recreate elusive, subjective experiences...without taking undue liberties.”

We are pleased to announce that the 2019 OCOB programming will include a visit from author Lauren Markham on October 4, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m., as well as a series of community book discussions. This year’s OCOB author visit and activities are co-sponsored by Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature.

Free copies are available to College of Education faculty, staff, and students - visit the N110 LC reception desk.

1. What inspired the author to write about the Flores twins and the migrant experience? What questions does Markham say that she had to ask and answer in order to “better understand [her] students, [her] country, and . . . migration into the United States” (xv)? Was she able to find answers to these questions? What does Markham say that she wanted her book to offer? Would you say that she succeeded in this?

2. What does the term hermano lejano mean? Who in the book is an hermano lejano and how and why do they earn this title? In addition to the literal translation of this phrase, what are some of the ways in which this titular term encapsulates the book’s major themes and subjects?

3. The author reports that a number of people approximately equivalent to one-third of all Salvadorans now live in the United States. What caused Salvadorans to migrate to the United States in such large numbers? Discuss political, cultural,

and historical context. Why do the Flores twins ultimately leave El Salvador for the United States even though it will mean tremendous hardship for them and their family back in El Salvador? Would you say that they had a choice?

4. What is a coyote? What must families sacrifice in order to hire a coyote and what are some of the risks families take in hiring and working with one?

5. What is the journey north like for migrants? What surprising facts does the author reveal about the demographics of El Salvador’s migrant population? What challenges and hardships must migrants endure as they make their way north? In addition to the physical demands of the journey, what are some of the psychological and emotional effects of such a journey?

6. What does the author mean when she says that “the history of the Rio Grande was one of shifting borders” (70)?

7. What challenges and obstacles are Ernesto and Raúl confronted with once they make it to the United States? What kinds of responsibilities must they take on that are unusual for minors? How do they handle these responsibilities? Would you say that their success is possible given these burdens? How is success defined for and by them?

8. Consider the treatment of women in the book. For instance, what happens to the Flores’s sister, Maricela after the twins depart? What does Maricela observe when she compares the male and female experience in El Salvador? How does Maricela’s story compare to those of her brothers? Do they have equal opportunities? Why or why not? What actions does Maricela take in order to secure a better life for herself? Is she successful?

9. According to Markham, what do the classrooms in schools like hers represent or reflect? What biases or hierarchies does she observe in this environment and what causes them? Are they avoidable? How do the Flores twins do in school and what challenges do they face as they try to graduate? Why does the author say that education is so important for them despite their need to work?



Friday, October 4, 7:00 - 8:00 p.m., 240 Art Building West (141 North Riverside Drive)