Patricia Engel on the Natural Human Instinct to Migrate
In Conversation with Mitchell Kaplan on The Literary Life Podcast
On today’s episode of The Literary Life, Mitchell Kaplan talks to Patricia Engel about her new book, Infinite Country, out now from Avid Reader Press.
From the episode:
Mitchell: How do you make sense of the demonization of of immigrants? Where is that coming from? Why is that happening, do you think?
Patricia: Well, I can’t make sense of it, but I think the trail of logic behind it is that sort of narrative serves certain people because it doesn’t make any sense. It’s the age-old story that if you repeat things long enough, people start to believe it. It starts to sound true. But if you think about the natural world and how the natural world functions, it’s a human instinct to move and to migrate. The fact that humanity has erected these artificial borders on land that was here long before any of us is counterintuitive to the human animal’s need for survival. What perplexes me is how people will watch documentaries about animals migrating and how they just know where to go to find the resources of food so they don’t die and to feed their young, yet when humans do the same thing, they say, well, they should just stay where they are, right? As if that makes any sense at all. Movement and migration is a natural and beautiful instinct and that people have that somehow learned to look down on it or to demonize it is just really a product of our time, certainly. But there’s no logic to it at all.
Patricia Engel is the author of The Veins of the Ocean, winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize; It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris, winner of the International Latino Book Award; and Vida, a finalist for the Pen/Hemingway and Young Lions Fiction Awards, New York Times Notable Book, and winner of Colombia’s national book award, the Premio Biblioteca de Narrativa Colombiana. She is a recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her stories appear in The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Mystery Stories, The O. Henry Prize Stories, and elsewhere. Born to Colombian parents, and herself a dual citizen, Patricia is an associate professor of creative writing at the University of Miami.