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Natalia Sylvester Illustrates the Complexities of Border Crossings in Everyone Knows You Go Home 

click to enlarge ERIC SYLVESTER
  • Eric Sylvester
A young mother, father and little girl drenched in mud move hurriedly through the brush of a nature preserve in the Rio Grande Valley. When they cross the path of a group of high schoolers on a bird migration field trip, they are almost mistaken for fellow hikers or students who accidentally fell in the river. One detail reveals they are neither: They are barefoot. Only one of the students, Eduardo — an unaccompanied minor himself fewer than two years prior — understands that he is witnessing a crossing.

In Everyone Knows You Go Home, Natalia Sylvester illustrates life’s extremes for Eduardo, now a high school student readjusting to life with his relatives Isabel and Martin in McAllen. Having endured riding atop the Beast, the northbound train that runs through Mexico, Eduardo has fled gang members who threatened violence if his family did not share the profits of their restaurant in Mexico.

click to enlarge COURTESY
  • Courtesy
What Sylvester illustrates goes beyond the danger of crossing the border. The novel acknowledges the complexities of birthplace and identity. Eduardo might be able to stay “if he’s been here for a certain amount of time … if the state considers him abandoned or neglected … if it’s not in his best interest to return.” Sylvester places the rituals of American life — Eduardo earning a driver’s license, having a girlfriend, going to prom — alongside the dire possibility of his deportation. The worry causes Isabel, a nurse who often treats patients suffering from dehydration while crossing the border, to attend to these matters while searching for the right attorney.

All the while, Eduardo reflects on his crossing with his grandfather Omar, a muerto, a spirit who reappears annually to avoid being forgotten. In this case, it is also to connect the missing pieces of his family’s story and journey. However, a looming question remains: How and when did Omar die? He worried that his crossing, which he had attempted twice, had been in vain: “He had always thought crossing the border would be hardest, but now he suspected it was this, the in-between, the stretches of miles for the forgotten, where they could become lost but never mourned, or found but tossed back, turned away as if they had never arrived.”

Reading with Natalia Sylvester
6pm, Tue Jun 19, The Twig Book Shop, 306 Pearl Pkwy. Suite 106, (210) 826-6411,
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