In early December I went to El Paso to the Mexican Border to research my picture book, Facing Fear(working title) about Enrique, the child of undocumented parents. It is fiction and it is a difficult story to capture. My original manuscript was 1500 words. I have manage to cut to 850 words.
Those 850 words represent interviews with the FBI, reporters who regularly cross into war zones controlled by drug cartels in Jurez, teachers, children, and a social worker who works with children who are undocumented. It has meant reading many books, fiction and non-fiction and watching a number of films, reading news articles and journeying the internet for any thing from the Spanish word for run to facts about border patrol to personal stories from immigrants.
The story of undocumented immigrants is complex and compelling. I hope I can do it justice. The day after I sent the manuscript. to an editor who expressed an interest in this kind of material for children, this opt-ed piece appeared in the NY Times. It is worth a read. Honest and compelling, it captures all that I have tried to put into a picture book.
It is interesting to note that as I was working on the book, this last month the Tucson school district was forced to eliminate a very successful program teaching Latino history and several books related to that program have been banned from the school system. This is a symptom of a larger problem we currently face in Arizona and other states creating and enforcing laws that work to discriminate against immigrants instead of to help solve the complicated immigration problems we face today.