Our new issue, “Break Me In and Out” by Kindall Gray, won us over with its plucky heroine Toby, her fascinating neighbor and friend Edilio, and wild and beautiful descriptions of monitor lizards and border-crossings. It was discovered and curated by One Story editor Karen Friedman, so I am turning the introductions over to her. I hope the setting of Phoenix, AZ will keep everyone warm in these cold winter days.-HT
I live in a small town with a large immigrant population – which is to say, a large Hispanic immigrant population. Our public elementary school has a majority of ESL learners and simultaneous translation devices for parents attending school events. We have two Mexican markets, but when I want them, I can get fresh tomatillos and plantains at my usual grocery store. Diversity is one of those nice, liberal ideas that I grew up embracing and one of many reasons my husband and I chose to move to our town. However, when I’m honest, I have to admit that I don’t actually know any of my immigrant neighbors. They live quite literally on the other side of the railroad tracks that bisect my town. As a white Anglo-American, it is easy not to see what I don’t want to and to pretend immigration is an amorphous blob of political interests. It is easy to talk about exploitation of the day laborers who stand outside our 7-11 hoping for a job or who live in a single-family home with three other families, without any real idea of what those things mean.
The first time I read Kindall Gray’s “Break Me In and Out” I was taken in by the simple humanity of her story. It’s not so much a story about immigration, but rather about life on the margins and the way a person learns to navigate such a life. With subtlety and compassion, Gray takes us behind the politics to show a relationship between an illegal immigrant, Edilio, and his young neighbor, Toby. Edilio’s faith and empathy, the way he shares his food and stories with someone who is more vulnerable than he is, speak to a side of life rarely glimpsed by most of us. The legalities of how Edilio came to live next door to Toby matter so much less than what he leaves her with. For more on how Gray created these surprising and real characters, check out our author Q&A.