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About The Book

This “harrowing, heartbreaking story” (Kirkus Reviews) depicts 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.

One day, Emilio learns the shocking secret: he is undocumented. His parents, who emigrated from Guatemala to California, had never told him.

Emilio slowly adjusts to his new normal. All is going well, he’s in his second year at UC Berkeley...then he gets into a car accident, and—without a driver’s license or any ID—the policeman on the scene reports him to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Once deported to Guatemala, Emilio 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 and eventually the Sonoran Desert of the United States-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 Aharonian Marcom weaves a “powerful, heartbreaking” (Publishers Weekly) tale of adventure. In The New American, Marcom “depicts inhumanity with visceral force, but her bracing empathy (and hope) shines above all” (Entertainment Weekly). This is a compassionate story of one young man who risks so much to return home.

About The Author

Luco Parsons

Micheline Aharonian Marcom was born in Saudi Arabia and raised in Los Angeles. She has published seven 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 her 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

About The Reader

Why We Love It

“This is a gorgeous, gorgeous book, which is remarkable in its unflinching look at an experience which shouldn’t be. No one should have to travel, like thousands of people do, across the border in search of opportunity, and face thieves and gangs and corrupt law enforcement, and wind and rain and the brutally hot sun. Marcom illuminates this experience with a keen eye both for the darkest and brightest parts of the soul. There is violence here, and generosity. There is fear, and hope. It is messy, and it is beautiful.” —Emily G., Editor, on The New American

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (August 18, 2020)
  • Runtime: 7 hours and 3 minutes
  • ISBN13: 9781797109480

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Raves and Reviews

"With a thoughtful and heartfelt narration, Timothy Andres Pabon gives voice to 21-year-old Emilio, whose undocumented status in the U.S. upends his life. After spending most of his life in California and attending college there, Emilio is deported to Guatemala when he can't produce the police with identification after a car accident. Emilio is determined to return to his family, and Pabon creates an evocative depiction of his harrowing journey from Guatemala through the Mexican desert to Arizona. The unimaginable dangers he faces include threats of death, assault and kidnapping, police corruption, and insufficient food and water. Pabon splendidly conveys the resolve and lingering hopefulness of Emilio and his four young Honduran traveling companions—Matilde, Pedro, William, and Jonatan. An immersive and powerful listen."

– AudioFile Magazine

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