I often search for book reviews in the back of magazines. I know that sounds weird, but if I am unable to come up with a good book idea on my own, I go to the magazine section of the library and flip through People and Real Simple looking for their good reads section. I found The Leavers by Lisa Ko in Real Simple, and I'm glad I did. The Leavers follows the life of a young Chinese boy in New York City, named Deming. It exposed me to the realness of life in the states as an immigrant as well as the deportation process. For me, I learn so much better about different aspects to life (like the raw racism portrayed in Jodi Picoult's Small Great Things) rather than arbitrarily reading about the subject matter on it's own. For me, the storyline and the characters give the issue life, and the lessons imprint themselves better in my mind.
In the book, young Deming lives in a small apartment in New York City with his mother, her boyfriend, his sister and her son. His mother had worked in a factory in China and saved every penny to be able to pay the large fee to be smuggled into America, with the hopes of creating a better life for herself and her unborn child. She works long hours, but they enjoy their life together in the city, until one day Deming returns home from school and she has vanished without a trace. The book is written in one of those flashback styles, with alternating storylines of Deming as a child and Deming now in his early twenties, trying to find his way, and considers resuming his search for his mother.
An easy and entertaining read, The Leavers paints the picture of cultural and family ties as well as the oppressive nature towards illegal immigrants in the workplace. As I read about Deming's mother saving tens of thousands of dollars by working as a teenager in China to pay for her entry to America, only to arrive to a crowded apartment where she slept on the floor and worked long (underpaid) hours to pay off her (overpriced) debts to get to New York. It was all eye opening for me, and given in the context of a coming of age storyline. Find it in your local library or here on amazon.