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OLLAS Book of the Month

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MARCH 2014: Voices of Indigenous Oaxacan Youth in the Central Valley: Creating Our Sense of Belonging in California / Voces de jóvenes indígenas oaxaqueños en el Valle Central: Forgando nuestro sentido de pertenencia en California
by the Oaxacalifornian Reporting Team / Equipo de Cronistas Oaxacalifornianos

How do young adults who grew up in Oaxacan immigrant families in California’s Central Valley get involved in civic life? How do indigenous migrant youth build on their peoples’ cultural legacies while integrating into both Mexican and American communities in the Central Valley? They face the challenge of having to navigate several different cultures at the same time— the indigenous cultures that their parents brought with them, the broader Mexican culture that their communities are a part of, and then the dominant U.S. culture. Linguistic diversity is a central part of their lived experience— their parents often speak an indigenous language at home, they speak Spanish with friends (including other indigenous young adults whose parents speak different languages) —and they learn English at school. Most become bilingual, some even trilingual.

Young indigenous migrants in the Central Valley grow up immersed in these different cultures, accompanying their parents’ struggles at work for survival as farmworkers, and aware that education can be a pathway to better jobs – for some, at least. Yet some families migrate seasonally up to the Pacific Northwest, causing a late start to the children’s school year. While parents often remain engaged with their communities of origin, what about those who grew up in the US? Along the way, they frequently experience racial discrimination, both in Mexico and in the US, leading some to deny their indigenous heritage. At the same time, those immigrants who attend school in the US learn about the civil rights movement. In this context, how do indigenous young people decide how to commit to social change?

This report investigates some of these intriguing questions. Stop by OLLAS to read it or view the PDF online in English or Spanish.

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FEBRUARY 2014: How Children Succeed, by Paul Tough

Why do some children succeed while others fail? The story we usually tell about childhood and success is the one about intelligence: success comes to those who score highest on tests, from preschool admissions to SATs. But in How Children Succeed, Paul Tough argues that the qualities that matter most have more to do with character: skills like perseverance, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism, and self-control.

How Children Succeed introduces us to a new generation of researchers and educators who, for the first time, are using the tools of science to peel back the mysteries of character. Through their stories—and the stories of the children they are trying to help—Tough traces the links between childhood stress and life success. He uncovers the surprising ways in which parents do—and do not—prepare their children for adulthood. And he provides us with new insights into how to help children growing up in poverty.

Early adversity, scientists have come to understand, not only affects the conditions of children’s lives, it can also alter the physical development of their brains. But innovative thinkers around the country are now using this knowledge to help children overcome the constraints of poverty. With the right support, as Tough’s extraordinary reporting makes clear, children who grow up in the most painful circumstances can go on to achieve amazing things.

This provocative and profoundly hopeful book has the potential to change how we raise our children, how we run our schools, and how we construct our social safety net. It will not only inspire and engage readers, it will also change our understanding of childhood itself. Learn more about the book on NPR.

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JANUARY 2014: Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter's Journey Through a Country's Descent into Darkness, by Alfredo Corchado

In the last six years, more than eighty thousand people have been killed in the Mexican drug war, and drug trafficking there is a multibillion-dollar business. In a country where the powerful are rarely scrutinized, noted Mexican American journalist Alfredo Corchado refuses to shrink from reporting on government corruption, murders in Juarez, or the ruthless drug cartels of Mexico. A paramilitary group spun off from the Gulf cartel, the Zetas, controls key drug routes in the north of the country. In 2007, Corchado received a tip that he could be their next target—and he had twenty four hours to find out if the threat was true.

Rather than leave his country, Corchado went out into the Mexican countryside to trace investigate the threat. As he frantically contacted his sources, Corchado suspected the threat was his punishment for returning to Mexico against his mother’s wishes. His parents had fled north after the death of their young daughter, and raised their children in California where they labored as migrant workers. Corchado returned to Mexico as a journalist in 1994, convinced that Mexico would one day foster political accountability and leave behind the pervasive corruption that has plagued its people for decades.

But in this land of extremes, the gap of inequality—and injustice—remains wide. Even after the 2000 election that put Mexico’s opposition party in power for the first time, the opportunities of democracy did not materialize. The powerful PRI had worked with the cartels, taking a piece of their profit in exchange for a more peaceful, and more controlled, drug trade. But the party’s long-awaited defeat created a vacuum of power in Mexico City, and in the cartel-controlled states that border the United States. The cartels went to war with one another in the mid-2000s, during the war to regain control of the country instituted by President Felipe Calderón, and only the violence flourished. The work Corchado lives for could have killed him, but he wasn't ready to leave Mexico—not then, maybe never. Midnight in Mexico is the story of one man’s quest to report the truth of his country—as he raced to save his own life.

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DECEMBER 2013: Fire in the Canyon: Religion, Migration, and the Mexican Dream, by Leah Sarat

The canyon in central Mexico was ablaze with torches as hundreds of people filed in. So palpable was their shared shock and grief, they later said, that neither pastor nor priest was needed. The event was a memorial service for one of their own who had died during an attempted border passage. Months later a survivor emerged from a coma to tell his story. The accident had provoked a near-death encounter with God that prompted his conversion to Pentecostalism.

Today, over half of the local residents of El Alberto, a town in central Mexico, are Pentecostal. Submitting themselves to the authority of a God for whom there are no borders, these Pentecostals today both embrace migration as their right while also praying that their “Mexican Dream”—the dream of a Mexican future with ample employment for all—will one day become a reality.

Fire in the Canyon provides one of the first in‑depth looks at the dynamic relationship between religion, migration, and ethnicity across the U.S.-Mexican border. Faced with the choice between life‑threatening danger at the border and life‑sapping poverty in Mexico, residents of El Alberto are drawing on both their religion and their indigenous heritage to demand not only the right to migrate, but also the right to stay home. If we wish to understand people's migration decisions, Sarat argues, we must take religion seriously. It is through religion that people formulate their ideas about life, death, and the limits of government authority.

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NOVEMBER 2013: Invisible No More: Understanding the Disenfranchisement of Latino Men and Boys, edited by Pedro Noguera, Cumbre 2013 Keynote Speaker, Aída Hurtado and Edward Fergus.

Latino men and boys in the United States are confronted with a wide variety of hardships that are not easily explained or understood. They are populating prisons, dropping out of high school, and are becoming overrepresented in the service industry at alarming degrees. Young Latino men, especially, have among the lowest wages earned in the country, a rapidly growing rate of HIV/AIDS, and one of the highest mortality rates due to homicide. Although there has been growing interest in the status of men in American society, there is a glaring lack of research and scholarly work available on Latino men and boys.

This groundbreaking interdisciplinary volume, edited by renowned scholars Pedro Noguera, Aída Hurtado and Edward Fergus addresses the dearth of scholarship and information about Latino men and boys to further our understanding of the unique challenges and obstacles that they confront during this historical moment. By drawing attention to the sweeping issues facing this segment of the population, this volume offers research and policy a set of principles and overarching guidelines for decreasing the invisibility and thus the disenfranchisement of Latino men and boys. Preview the Table of Contents and other sections on Google Books.

"Essential reading for anyone seeking to pierce the veil that distorts and obscures the realities of Latino men and boys. Impressive in scope, ranging from education opportunities, to homophobia, to the loneliness that attends boys' passage into manhood. Excellent and bracing and important." ~Junot Díaz, author of Drown and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

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OCTOBER 2013: The Routledge International Handbook of Migration Studies, edited by Steven J. Gold and Stephanie J. Nawyn.

"In an age of migration, this International Handbook of Migration Studies is a magnificent achievement. The editors have brought together four dozen original essays by leading scholars that illuminate this vast and fascinating field, as rapidly changing as the world on the move i seeks to grasp. Global in scope, innovative in design, with wide-angle and interdisciplinary lenses, this timely volume is an essential reference for scholars, students, and informed publics alike." ~Rubén G. Rumbaut, OLLAS Cumbre 2010 Keynote Speaker and co-author of Immigrant America: A Portrait, and Legacies: The Story of the Immigrant Second Generation

The current era is marked by an unparalleled level of human migration, the consequence of both recent and long-term political, economic, cultural, social, demographic and technological developments. Despite increased efforts to limit its size and consequences, migration has wide-ranging impacts upon social, environmental, economic, political, and cultural life in countries of origin and settlement. Such transformations impact not only those who are migrating, but those who are left behind, as well as those who live in the areas where migrants settle.

Featuring forty-seven essays written by leading international and multidisciplinary scholars, this work offers a contemporary, integrated and comprehensive resource for students and scholars of sociology, politics, human geography, law, history, urban planning, journalism, and health care. Preview the Table of Contents and other sections on Google Books.

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SEPTEMBER 2013: Those Damned Immigrants, by Ediberto Román.

those damned immigrants coverRomán takes on critics of Latina/o immigration, drawing on empirical evidence to refute charges of links between immigration and crime, economic downfall, and a weakening of Anglo culture. Román utilizes government statistics, economic data, historical records, and social science research to provide a counter-narrative to what he argues is a largely one-sided public discourse on Latino/a immigration. Ediberto Román is Professor of Law and Director of Citizenship and Immigration Initiatives at Florida International University.

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For more information contact the OLLAS Office at (402) 554-3835 or unoollas@unomaha.edu.