Tag Archives: refugees

“Trip Wires”, a new story collection by Sandra Hunter

“She drowsed and wakened. Surely someone would find them. Was it better to be shot than to watch her child starve? In the cold, she held him close, and he slept and woke through the night, sucking at her dry breasts.”

In her new story collection Trip Wires, Sandra Hunter has an uncanny ability to get inside the heads of ordinary people caught in the widely-scattered wars that have defined, tragically, the beginning decades of this millennium. These are the ones who can get out and the ones who can’t. These are ordinary people who, in desperation to survive, do extraordinary things.

Their stories are disturbing. With harrowing realism Hunter shows us their poverty, their scars, their journeys, their nightmares, their courage. And sometimes their humanity. The above excerpt comes from the story “Borderland”. That story is a full-force punch to the gut, depicting a young mother fleeing a nameless war in a lifeless land. But the young mother discovers human kindness in places and proportions that no one could imagine.

These stories are not for the faint of heart, and it is natural for us to avoid emotional “trip wires” that unleash the shocks and horrors of war. But the suffering is real and, lying just beneath the surface of our world, we can’t avoid it forever. Maybe, with the insights of authors like Sandra Hunter, we can learn why we need to urgently defuse those senseless conflicts that have booby trapped our present and maybe our entire future.

Sleepless in San Ysidro

If only I could sleep. Tomorrow is too important. That’s why I can’t sleep. If I’m too tired tomorrow how can I be strong for myself and for my kids. By tomorrow this time where will I be, where will my children be? I don’t want to think about it. But I can’t help it. I can’t help thinking that I have done this to my children. That I have put them through so much danger, that I don’t know what kind of dangers are ahead for them. What will happen if we are separated? How can they speak for themselves, they don’t know English, not enough to explain our situation. Neither do I, but at least if we were together—

Look at the way Antonio is sleeping, hugging his backpack like it was his old stuffed dinosaur. Jacklyn, thank god, she’s asleep, poor thing. I hope she doesn’t remember that nightmare when she wakes up. But how will she ever lose the memory of what happened to her after we left Durango. Molested by that gang member who carried drugs, while I was throwing up in the brush from the bad food. Her clothes torn and she had thrown up, too, from the things that monster did to her. Even now, look at the way that man sleeping near her keeps inching closer every time he turns over. In a minute I am going to wake her and trade places with her. She didn’t deserve any of this cruelty.

I really wish to god I had turned back before we got to the border of Mexico. But the farther we went the harder it was to turn back. How can I ever forget this living nightmare? This thing I have done, listening to false promises and lies and giving all our money to these bastard smugglers, these “coyotes”, who tell you they will keep you safe and get you to the U.S. and you will have a job there and a place to live. I was a fool, just like all these other people. And now look what I’ve done to my children. I suppose that’s the real reason why I can’t sleep.

Robbed twice, then arrested by Mexican immigration, they separated me and my children for two days. Then they finally let us go and told us not to stop until we reach the U.S. border. I was almost raped by that bastard smuggler but those two men from my country were nearby and saw I was in trouble and scared him off.

I miss the baby so much. But how could I bring her? You can’t take a three year old on this kind of travel. Some people do, but—. Will I ever see her again? Will I ever see Grandma? Sometimes I wonder if I ever really will.

In the morning I have to be sure the children remember those two words: Asilo Politico. The coyotes tell us that the Americans have nice hotels for families like us, we will get our own room, food, everything we need while they listen to our case. I don’t really believe any of that. I don’t know where they will put us. I don’t know if they will take my children from me. But I know they will not harm my children, they have compassion, they will give them plenty of food and a safe place to sleep with other children. Maybe they will let me visit them. That is all I care about. Maybe I will be able to sleep at night then. If I could only sleep now. But first I must move Jacklyn to the middle, between me and Antonio. I don’t want to wake him. He needs these few hours of peace. Before tomorrow comes.

The Trespassers

I don’t know what book was the first to be written about Nazi aggression and the Holocaust. Certainly The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank was one of the first. But I would guess that The Trespassers by Laura Zametkin Hobson, which was published in 1943, was also among the earliest. Considering that it was written in the midst of World War II and the Holocaust, Hobson’s novel is quite remarkable. She captures much of the terror and misery that pervaded Europe during the very end of the 1930’s. She also foreshadows the increasing magnitude of that terror and misery, which the 1940’s would spawn through war and genocide.

The book especially dramatizes the plight of Europe’s innocent refugees in the face of worldwide immigration policies fraught with xenophobia. I have to say that that theme struck a personal chord in me and made me do a little soul-searching, because of my work. Although Hobson’s style may be a bit soapy or schmaltzy, her book is a very moving saga and as timely now as it was then.

Just out of curiosity, does anyone know of any earlier-published books about the Holocaust?