Mother from Peru personalizes ‘Enrique’s Journey’ with her tale

Joining thousands of other students and employees at UW-Madison, Continuing Studies staff and faculty this spring read and discussed the thought-provoking true story and national bestseller Enrique’s Journey by journalist Sonia Nazario.

The Continuing Studies experience included a surprising and touching element when Odyssey Project graduate Beatriz Mairena-Kellman joined the discussion group and related the emotional tale of her personal journey to the U.S. from Peru.

In Enrique’s Journey, Nazario tells the story of one boy’s efforts to rejoin his mother after she leaves him with family in Honduras to go to the U.S. in search of a better life for both of them. The book recounts Enrique’s hardships as he heads north, as do thousands of other immigrant children–clinging to the tops and sides of freight trains, hiding from bandits, and trying again and again to cross the border, only to be sent back each time by officials.

With tears in her eyes, Mairena-Kellman told the group how she too left her son behind, always thinking she would return to Peru. Just as Enrique did, Mairena-Kellman’s son came to the U.S. as an older teen. At first he was elated to be with his mother, but shortly after arriving he started expressing his anger at having felt abandoned in childhood.

Mairena-Kellman said she was lucky she lived in Madison: someone connected her with a Spanish-speaking therapist, and she and her son have finally found peace. An instructional specialist for UW-Extension Cooperative Extension, Mairena-Kellman helps area Latino families grow and prepare local produce and other foods.

UW–Madison’s Go Big Read program supports thousands of people in exploring important issues from a range of perspectives through reading, and sharing their reactions to, a particular book. Vanika Mock was the driving force behind this year’s Continuing Studies discussion group.

For the 2012-13 academic year, the Go Big Read selection is Radioactive, Marie and Pierre Curie:  A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss.

The Continuing Studies Professional Development Committee will host a book discussion in fall. Sarah Marty, coordinator of theatre programs and Sage Goellner, director of language programs, have volunteered to co-facilitate the discussion.