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We Are Not from Here
Cover of We Are Not from Here
We Are Not from Here
A poignant novel of desperation, escape, and survival across the U.S.-Mexico border, inspired by current events.Pulga has his dreams. Chico has his grief.Pequeña has her pride. And these three...
A poignant novel of desperation, escape, and survival across the U.S.-Mexico border, inspired by current events.Pulga has his dreams. Chico has his grief.Pequeña has her pride. And these three...
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  • A poignant novel of desperation, escape, and survival across the U.S.-Mexico border, inspired by current events.
    Pulga has his dreams.
    Chico has his grief.
    Pequeña has her pride.
    And these three teens have one another. But none of them have illusions about the town they've grown up in and the dangers that surround them. Even with the love of family, threats lurk around every corner. And when those threats become all too real, the trio knows they have no choice but to run: from their country, from their families, from their beloved home.
    Crossing from Guatemala through Mexico, they follow the route of La Bestia, the perilous train system that might deliver them to a better life—if they are lucky enough to survive the journey. With nothing but the bags on their backs and desperation drumming through their hearts, Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña know there is no turning back, despite the unknown that awaits them. And the darkness that seems to follow wherever they go.
    In this striking portrait of lives torn apart, the plight of migrants at the U.S. southern border is brought to light through poignant, vivid storytelling. An epic journey of danger, resilience, heartache, and hope.
    Praise for We Are Not From Here:
    "With poignant, exhausting lyricism and heart wrenching poetic prose, Jenny Torres Sanchez digs deep and shows us the throbbing, aching corazón—the hopeful, unbreakable spirit of the embattled immigrant. A book for the starving, lost soul." —Guadalupe García McCall, Pura Belpré Award-winning author of Under the Mesquite
    "An incredibly powerful, soul-searing YA. [I]mportant and necessary.... I could not put this book down." —Padma Venkatraman, award-winning author of The Bridge Home
    "We Are Not From Here is one of the most relevant and needed young adult novels of the year, a must-read." —Jennifer Mathieu, critically acclaimed author of The Liars of Mariposa Island and Moxie
    "An achingly beautifully story...masterfully told...Jenny Torres Sanchez is a true leader within young adult fiction." —Christina Diaz Gonzalez, award-winning author of The Red Umbrella
    "We Are Not From Here is absolutely stunning. It's raw and real, gritty and gorgeously told. A story that's painfully relevant today, and told with such precision and beauty, you can feel it. It's breathtaking and left me absolutely breathless." —Lauren Gibaldi, author of This Tiny Perfect World
    "We Are Not From Here is a book that will mark your heart. Jenny Torres Sanchez challenges us to feel, empathize and understand. A searing, necessary and ultimately beautiful book." —Alexandra Villasante, critically acclaimed author of The Grief Keeper
    * "A brutally honest, not-to-be-missed narrative...gripping, heart-wrenching, and thrilling." —Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Excerpts-

  • From the book PROLOGUE

    When you live in a place like this, you're always planning your escape. Even if you don't know when you'll go. Even if you stare out your kitchen window, looking for reasons to stay—you stare at the red Coca-Cola sign on the faded turquoise wall of Don Felicio's store that serves the coldest Coca-Colas you've ever tasted. The gauzy orange of the earth—both on the ground and swirling in the air—that has seeped into every one of your happiest memories. The green palms of the tree you climbed one time to pick and crack the ripest coconut that held the sweetest water you gave your mother. And the deep blue of the sky you tell yourself is only this blue here.

    You can look at all this and still be planning your escape.

    Because you've also seen how blood turns brown as it seeps into concrete. As it mixes with dirt and the excrements and innards of leaking dead bodies. You've stared at those dark places with your friends on the way to school, the places people have died. The places they disappeared from. The places they reappeared one morning months later, sometimes alive, sometimes dead, but mostly in fragments. You've watched dogs piss in those places. On those bodies that once cried with life.

    You plan your escape because no matter how much color there is or how much color you make yourself see, you've watched every beautiful thing disappear from here. Made murky by night and darkness and shadow.

    You plan your escape because you've seen your world turn black.

    You plan your escape.

    But you're never really ready to go.



    PULGA

    We should run.

    The words fill my mind as the priest throws holy water on Don Felicio's coffin. Neighbors slide it into its vault. Doña Agostina holds her rosary and wails.

    Yesterday at his wake, she'd told me to run. Yesterday, Pequeña had told us to run, too. Today, my eyes scan the cemetery, looking for Rey or Nestor, and all I can think about is running.

    The crowd disperses.

    Another day.

    Another death.

    Another body.

    When we get home, Mamá sinks into the couch, exhausted. My mind sees the red velvet cushions. Blood-red. So much blood.

    We should run.


    "You and Chico go rest," she says, pulling up her legs and lying down without bothering to change out of her black dress. "I'm going to stay here for just a little while. Close and lock the door."

    Chico gets up from where he was sitting in the doorway and I do as Mamá says. He heads to our room and I follow. There is a heaviness in the air, pressing down on us. The thud of my own feet sounds terrible. But as I walk past Mamá, she reaches for my arm and grabs it.

    "Pulga," she says. The force of her touch and her voice startles me. I look at her tired face and she says, "Te quiero mucho, Pulgita."

    "I know, Mamá. I love you, too." But there is something else she wants to say, and doesn't. I can see it on her face. She just nods, lets go of my arm, and closes her eyes.

    I stand there for just a moment, wondering if Doña Agostina told her about the dream she had. Or maybe Pequeña said something. Maybe Mamá is starting to believe in brujas and superstitions. Maybe I should, too.

    Maybe Mamá will even tell me I should run, because it's the only way. That I have her blessing. That she understands broken promises.

    Instead she takes a deep breath, lets it out.

    And I go to my room.

    Chico has the fan on the highest setting and it whirs loudly.

    I close the door, even though it keeps the...

Reviews-

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from March 1, 2020

    Gr 9 Up-Peque�a, Pulga, and Chico know that in Puerto Barrios, their future and the future of those around them is always uncertain. After Pulga and Chico witness the murder of Don Feliciano, they are pulled in to local gang leader Rey's group, their lives and loved ones threatened unless they comply. Peque�a, who has suffered from Rey's threats in silence and has given birth to his child, can see all too clearly the future she will have by his side. In desperation, Peque�a, Pulga, and Chico leave their beloved mothers behind, relying on each other as they make the dangerous journey from Guatemala to the U. S. This fast-paced novel provides a heartbreakingly brutal look at just some of the dangerous realities faced by many. The circumstances that lead them to leave everything they love behind are replaced by different, equally harsh situations once they arrive in a place they thought would provide safety. Sanchez's insightful descriptions of the characters' thoughts and feelings, as well as their desperation and hopelessness, will elicit empathy in young readers. Short chapters filled with suspense and heartache will keep teens turning the pages to find out what happens to the trio. VERDICT A candid, realistic story that will leave readers thinking about the characters-and about our own world-long after the last page. Perfect for young adult collections in school and public libraries.-Selenia Paz, Harris County Public Library, Houston

    Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    March 15, 2020
    Three Guatemalan teenagers flee their dangerous hometown. In this action-packed and beautifully rendered depiction of the refugee migrant experience, Sanchez tells the story of 15-year-old Pulga; his brother by choice, Chico; and his cousin Peque�a, three teenagers from Puerto Barrios, Guatemala, who must sneak away from their town to survive. Pulga and Chico unfortunately happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time when they witness the murder of Don Felicio, the convenience store owner who gives them Cokes in exchange for help. Peque�a, who is 17 and a new mother, wants to escape Rey, the gang member who raped her and wants to force her into marriage--and who murdered Don Felicio. The chapters switch between the first-person perspectives of Pulga, who has the heart of an artist, and Peque�a, who sees beyond her surroundings and escapes reality during stressful situations. Scared of a future controlled by Rey, the trio embark on the journey that will bring them to the United States. But first they must conquer La Bestia, the name given by migrants to the train that claims the limbs and lives of many who flee violence. Sanchez delivers a brutally honest, not-to-be-missed narrative enriched by linguistic and cultural nuances in which she gracefully describes the harrowing experiences the young people endure after making the choice to survive. A gripping, heart-wrenching, and thrilling tale of survival. (map, author's note, sources) (Fiction. 14-adult)

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from April 13, 2020
    This powerful novel by Sanchez (Because of the Sun) follows three teenagers fleeing the violence, danger, and poverty of Puerto Barrios, the Guatemalan home they simultaneously love and hate. Stirred by renewed fear of local gang leader Rey, the close-knit trio decides to make the perilous, punishing journey through the deserts of Central America to Mexico, where they can jump the freight train known as La Bestia, “an enormous steel centipede groaning and hissing to life, its power vibrating through the ground,” which they hope will deliver them to the United States. Seventeen-year-old Pequeña is desperate to escape marriage to Rey, whose son she has just borne; 15-year-old Pugla and his de facto brother, Chico, 13, have witnessed a murder. The journey ends differently for each of the three, realistically representing the variety of outcomes that refugees can experience and building a profound understanding of why so many people are driven to risk their lives in search of an uncertain future. A devastating read that is difficult to put down, this unforgettable book unflinchingly illuminates the experiences of those leaving their homes to seek safety in the United States. Ages 14–up. Agent: Kerry Sparks, Levine Greenberg Rostan Agency. (May)

  • Booklist

    Starred review from March 15, 2020
    Grades 9-12 *Starred Review* This gripping, poignant story, grounded in current events, is told from the alternating points of view of Pulga ( Flea ) and his cousin Peque�a ( Little ), who, along with Pulga's brother, Chico, struggle with the daily violence and corruption in Guatemala. The trio often hear tales of escaping to America via La Bestia, an arduous journey that includes stowing away on a horrifying train to cross borders illegally. When the terror at home gets out of hand, Pulga, Peque�a, and Chico decide to flee but soon find that the trail ahead is some kind of dark maze, some labyrinth or trap, that we might never find our way out of. This soul-shaking narrative feels as real as the list of historical references included in the back matter. Readers will question, like the trio, if there is any good left in the world, but through their hardships, they come to learn that family means more than blood, and that their hearts and aspirations are bigger than their nicknames imply. Melding the adventure with bouts of magical realism recalling the works of Gabriel Garc�a M�rquez?and writing with respect and sympathy for the plight of these people?Sanchez takes readers on a frightening pursuit of the American dream, and whether or not the trio is successful, we must keep them company every difficult step of the way.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

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