In this timely and emotionally powerful novel, award-winning author Micheline A. Marcom recounts the epic journey of a young Guatemalan-American college student, a “dreamer,” who gets deported and decides to make his way back home to California.
Emilio believes he is living the American Dream: his parents, who emigrated from Guatemala to California, sacrifice daily to ensure it. And his life seems relatively normal until he turns sixteen. Like most teenagers, Emilio is determined to get his driver’s license—however, his mother discourages it. When Emilio asks why, his parents reveal a shocking secret: he is undocumented.
Emilio adjusts to his new normal. He attends UC Berkeley. He falls in love. All is going well…until Emilio gets into a car accident and—without a driver’s license or any documentation—the policeman on the scene reports him to Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE].
Emilio is deported to Guatemala. But he is determined to get back to California, the only home he has ever known. It is an epic journey that takes him across thousands of miles through remote towns, lush jungles, and eventually the Sonoran Desert of the US-Mexico border, meeting thieves and corrupt law enforcement but also kind strangers and new friends.
Inspired in part by interviews with Central American refugees, and told in lyrical prose, Micheline A. Marcom weaves a heart-pounding and heartbreaking tale of adventure. The New American is an important and well-timed novel that asks us what we have in common—across cultures, experiences, and borders—and what makes us not only American, but altogether human.
Micheline Aharonian Marcom was born in Saudi Arabia and raised in Los Angeles. She has published six novels, including a trilogy of books about the Armenian genocide and its aftermath in the 20th century. She has received fellowships and awards from the Lannan Foundation, the Whiting Foundation, and the US Artists’ Foundation. Her first novel, Three Apples Fell From Heaven, was a New York Times Notable Book and Runner-Up for the PEN/Hemingway Award for First Fiction. Her second novel, The Daydreaming Boy, won the PEN/USA Award for Fiction. In 2008, Marcom taught in Beirut, Lebanon, on a Fulbright Fellowship. Marcom splits here time between California and Virginia where she is a Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Virginia. She is the founder and Creative Director of The New American Story Project [NASP], a digital oral history project focused on unaccompanied Central American minors who journeyed thousands of miles to reach the US. Visit NASP at NewAmericanStoryProject.org.