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Go Big Read author to discuss “Enrique’s Journey”

October 24, 2011 By Jenny Price

When Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Sonia Nazario speaks the evening of Thursday, Oct. 27, at Union South at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, she’ll join a vibrant campus conversation already under way about her book,“Enrique’s Journey.”

Photo of students discussing ”Enrique’s Journey”.

Sonia Nazario, author of this year’s Go Big Read selection “Enrique’s Journey,” will visit campus this week to discuss her book.

Photo: Bryce Richter

Nazario’s talk is the marquee event for Go Big Read, the university’s common-reading program, and it promises to touch on more than just the story of Enrique, a Honduran boy who at age 16 repeatedly attempted to reach the United States to find his mother. His harrowing odyssey, clinging to the tops and sides of trains, is one taken by thousands of immigrant children who try to come to the United States each year to reunite with their parents.

Ken Frazier, director of UW–Madison Libraries, expects readers to respond on a personal level to the story of Enrique and his family. But Frazier also anticipates the book will inspire more from readers with the questions it raises about poverty and the legal, social, psychological and cultural impacts of immigration.

“Sonia Nazario’s public talks have a way of provoking wide-open discussion,” he says. “Major social issues are always seen more vividly when viewed through the lens of real-life human experience.”

Around the country, the book has moved its readers to reach out to help others. For example, students in California raised money to provide micro-loans for women in Guatemala to create jobs that allow them to stay with their children and lift themselves out of staggering poverty.

About 5,000 UW students received copies of “Enrique’s Journey” at the Chancellor’s Convocation for New Students in September, and more than 70 courses on campus are including the book as part of instruction this semester. In addition, a number of faculty and staff are discussing the book in small reading groups around campus.

Go Big Read organizers invited comments and questions on the program’s blog in advance of Nazario’s visit, and the responses demonstrate how the book affects readers. “I was heartbroken by the stories you described that you saw on your journey,” reads one post. “The injuries and situations that you described left me wanting to hear more.”

While on campus Thursday and Friday, Oct. 27 and 28, Nazario will also meet with first-year undergraduate writing courses, Madison-area high school students from Centro Hispano, participants in the Odyssey Project, as well as some UW students from First-Year Interest Groups, Chadbourne Residential College, the Multicultural Learning Community and Bradley Learning Community.

Nazario’s presentation begins at 7 p.m. Thursday in Union South’s Varsity Hall and is free and open to the public. Interim Chancellor David Ward will give remarks, and Charles Snowdon, co-chair of Go Big Read’s review committee and a UW–Madison professor of psychology, will moderate the question-and-answer period. Doors open at 6 p.m. and no tickets are required. Parking is available for $10 in lots 17 and 20. A sign-language interpreter will be present.

The event will be streamed live at the Go Big Read website and captioned and archived for later viewing.