The author enjoys reviewing literary works by famous authors.
Cristina Henríquez is the author of The Book of Unknown Americans, the New York Times' bestselling book of 2014. Her fictional work primarily addresses the lives of immigrants and the issues they face in the process of immigration.
"Everything Is Far from Here" is a short story published in the New Yorker on July 17, 2017, which also deals with the lives of detainees in detention centers, particularly women's issues. The story opens with a description of the female protagonist's inner feelings and physical condition. She has just crossed the southern border into the United States. She is in the detention center because of illegal entry or unauthorized arrival.
Upon Arrival, a Sense of Relief
"On the first day, there's a sense of relief." In this clause, the writer illustrates the protagonist's emotions, contrasting sharply with her physical appearance. She has arrived in America after an exhausting, three-week journey of constant walking. She is muddy, and she has blisters covering her ankles and bruises on her body.
Hope could be the reason for her relief. She speaks Spanish; she left her hometown due to threats of violence. The unnamed protagonist made this decision because she was left with no other choice. She arrived in America with hope in her eyes—the hope of living a fear-free life and being granted basic human rights. Perhaps her arrival assures her that her dreams will be fulfilled, and she will finally feel the sense of safety she needs to succeed in life.
She has a son from whom she was separated along the way. This could be another reason for her relief; she believes she will now be reunited with her son. But although she waits for him throughout the story, she never sees her son. Perhaps he doesn't make it.
The story closes with the woman still in the detention center. The author did not specify anything about her future and whether she will be granted a visa or be sent back to her country.
The story is conspicuously concerned with the role of gender, race, and class in the lives of individuals, especially those who decided to leave their countries in search of a better life.
The story's title—"Everything Is Far From Here"—gives a very fatalistic impression. It suggests the hope and happiness that immigrants expected is out of their reach. They may come holding onto hope, but soon after arrival, they lose all their optimism. And when human beings lose hope, they start thinking that nothing is conceivable, then they accept their situations by calling it "fate."
Perhaps the protagonist has also stopped hoping to see her child. For her, it was easy to give up, as the petals of a flower do against a gust of wind. "It's easy to let that happen, so much easier to give in, to be who they want you to be: a thing that flares apart in the tumult, a thing that surrenders to the wind."
This scenario suggests a theme of helplessness. The writer describes women's condition in the room. They are stacked neatly in bunk beds, like bodies in a morgue. They are placed in a shabby warehouse like dead bodies, like something futile that everybody wants to get rid of. Their condition also illustrates their emotional state; all detainees are lifeless and inert, perhaps due to fear and grief.
Even in the 21st century, gender decides a person's worth and experience. In this story, the writer focuses specifically on the lives and experiences of women detainees.
To reach asylum, the protagonist tells her lawyer the reason for leaving her country—she was raped by some boys and was afraid to continue living there. The lawyer asks her a few more questions, then he states coldly, "We have an expression here: Boys will be boys." This lawyer's remark shows that he does not think of her sexual assault as a big enough problem to warrant granting her political asylum.
Women, because of their gender, face more problems than men. During illegal immigration, primarily women are subjected to sexual assault. And many of them lose their children, as the protagonist of this story did.
The Moral of This Story: People Don't Care About Each Other
Many people are not aware of the problems immigrants face. They look at them as people who choose to leave their houses and now have jobs and things, which they believe to be rights belonging to citizens. Being human isn't worthwhile in today's world—a person's worth is determined by their race and class.
Throughout the story, the reader can see that humanity is not important in the eyes of authorities and government; all they care about is the fact that the immigrants don't belong to their country. Small children are placed in detention as though they are not living beings.
The detainees' lack of compassion for each other and self-centeredness illustrated in the story reveal the psychology of the human mind. When a person faces their worst, it becomes hard for them to give others their best. And that could also be representative of the heedless nature of modern humans who only care about themselves.
The essence of this story is how little people care about each other. The writer does not name her character. In her interview, she said, "A person is so much more than where they are from." Her purpose is to generalize the idea—this story isn't about just one woman; it was also written for those who did not make it, whose remains are found in the desert, and whose names we will never learn. It is about every refugee whom society has never accepted.
Read "Everything Is Far From Here"
- Everything Is Far from Here | The New Yorker
Cristina Henríquez’s Fiction story, “Everything Is Far from Here,” from the July 24, 2017, issue of the magazine.
Author Cristina Henríquez on "The Book of Unknown Americans"
© 2018 iffi
iffi (author) on December 10, 2018:
it's not just about America I think everywhere people hardly go beyond nations when it comes to help others.
Ryan Christopher Beitler from Allentown, PA on December 10, 2018:
Great points made. However, I think you are under valuing being born into a "human being " system. Civilized animals. Unfortunately, parents raise kids in America with media and entertainment. Spoiled! Pampered. When adversity strikes, they are unaware how to deal with it. Also be thankful to live in America. Women and gay people have come the farthest with rights. Still a little to go.