Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Radius of Us by Marie Marquardt

The Radius of Us is first and foremost a love story. Phoenix and Gretchen come from different worlds but they fall in love but they may never be able to be together due to forces outside of their control. Phoenix is an asylum seeker from El Salvador. His life is in danger due to gang violence in his home town and he has made an arduous journey north with his younger brother. At the U.S. border the brothers asked for asylum, and Phoenix is put into the Stewart Detention Center (a for-profit detention center in south Georgia) and his brother is put in a different facility in Texas. Phoenix meets a couple of women who get him released into their custody in an Atlanta neighborhood. That is where he meets Gretchen, a young woman who is having panic attacks due to a traumatic event in her life. As you read you discover what happened to Gretchen and what happened to Phoenix to bring them to that Atlanta neighborhood. It's a lovely story with a timely backdrop that makes it all the more heart wrenching. It is easy to blame immigrants on problems in America, but much harder to paint such broad strokes when you know their stories and the dangers they have faced in their quest for a better life. I have visited the Stewart Detention Center and written letters to detainees there, and it is a troubling place that people should be more aware of. I have also hosted Marie Marquardt at my school, and she writes from a place of deep knowledge and empathy for undocumented immigrants based on her research as an Emory University professor and her work with the nonprofit El Refugio.

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