A GOOD PROVIDER IS ONE WHO LEAVES: One Family and Migration in the 21st Century (Viking; on-sale 8/20/19 by Jason DeParle).
Review by: Julia Rickard
Penguin Random House
No issue is more polarizing in American life than immigration and no issue in greater need of a perspective that goes beyond the day’s headline.
In a work that gives new meaning to immersion journalism, Jason DeParle, a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist and veteran New York Times reporter, has spent a remarkable three decades following an extended family of Filipino immigrants, from the slums of Manila to the suburbs of Houston. Through their multigenerational saga, he tells the larger story of global migration, a force remaking economics, politics, and culture across the world.
As a young reporter in the 1980s, DeParle moved in with the family in a Manila shantytown and he has tracked their migrations ever since—to Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, as cruise ship workers, and finally to Texas. At the heart of the story is an unlikely heroine, Rosalie Villanueva, whose sacrifices rescue the clan from abject poverty. A 15-year-old school girl when DeParle met her, she is now a 47-year-old nurse and mother of three Americanizing kids.
While the politics of immigration are broken, DeParle shows that immigration itself—tens of millions of people gathered from every corner of the world—remains an under-appreciated American success. Weaving narrative and analysis, DeParle reports on migration from places as far flung as Ireland, Cape Verde, and Nepal, and traces its impact on events as disparate as Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.
In the vast literature on immigration, DeParle’s book stands alone. It is neither a knee-jerk defense of immigration or attack on it, but a deeply humanized portrait of its costs and rewards—much like his acclaimed poverty book, American Dream. Like the work of Alex Kotlowitz or Katherine Boo, it is a non-fiction novel with much to teach the expert and novice alike. The family’s story explodes stereotypes.
- Immigrants are often portrayed as Latino; the majority of people now arriving in the US are Asian, like Rosalie.
- A migrant worker is often understood to be a man, but the majority of immigrants are women—and often mothers who are forced to leave their children behind, as Rosalie once did.
- Technology is an increasingly vital part of the immigration story. To stay in touch with their children, Rosalie, along with her cousin Tess, become Facebook Moms—mothering from thousands of miles away.
- While illegal immigration dominates the news, three-quarters of immigrants, like Rosalie, are here legally.
- Critics often say that immigrants no longer want to assimilate, but Rosalie’s family assimilates at break-neck speed, achieving in three years what once took three generations. DeParle followed them on a near-daily basis—shadowing Rosalie in the hospital and the kids at school.
- While migration is often thought of as an individual decision, the Philippine government promotes migration as a solution to the country’s poverty—and now reaps $32 billion a year in remittances.
- The Philippines supplies a quarter of the world’s seafarers, including Rosalie’s relative, Manu, who suffers a life-threatening injury that illuminatesthe erosion of worker’s rights in an age of globalized labor.