Essays about Family, Food, and Migration
Helen Thorpe, author of a trio of award-winning books about the experiences of immigrants, refugees, and veterans, has turned her writerly lens on her own family, neighborhood, and ethnicity. In Finding Motherland, Thorpe shares seven essays she has written on the related themes of family, food, and migration, sharing observations about race and privilege.
In the first essay, Thorpe takes us to the dairy farm in Ireland where her mother grew up, and shows how Ireland is modernizing. She describes her family's decision to immigrate to the United States and how that reshaped her parents, and writes of becoming a mother herself as an experience analogous to moving to a new country. She profiles an undocumented student in her local school district who carries the American flag for his ROTC unit, and illustrates the social, economic, and legal challenges facing an undocumented mother with whom she shares the same public school. She documents the labor of men from Mexico and Honduras who work to produce the locally grown food that she eats. In the final essay, she reveals the problematic relationship of Irish-American immigrants to their forgotten past, showing us how that has led many prominent Irish-Americans to an adopt anti-immigrant stance at odds with their own history, given that their ancestors arrived penniless during the potato famine.
Thorpe is the author of three additional books of narrative nonfiction: Just Like Us, Soldier Girls, and The Newcomers. Just Like Us was named one of the best books of 2009 by the Washington Post. Soldier Girls was named the best nonfiction book of 2014 by Time Magazine. The Newcomers was described by The New York Times as “a delicate and heartbreaking mystery story” about 22 immigrant and refugee teens who share a classroom while learning English together.