Author’s Note to the book
I was interested in poor people before I was interested in journalism. I wrote my first poverty story when I was ten— a poem about a neighbor on food stamps. In college, I spent a summer in India. When I came back, a visiting journalist gave a talk about covering poverty. Suddenly I knew what I wanted to do. Getting hired to cover social policy for The New York Times felt like playing centerfield for the Yankees.
The stories I like best are deeply reported, character-driven narratives that illuminate larger issues. About, say, poor kids trying to go to college or escape gangs. For my first book, American Dream, I spent seven years following three Milwaukee families on and off the welfare rolls. When a reviewer said it read like a novel, I felt like I’d done my job.
Three decades ago, I moved into a Manila shantytown and lived with a remarkable family. Their hovel was my graduate school. Tita and Emet Comodas faced their hardships with uncommon grace and resilience, and I’ve been reporting on their family since. Emet spent much of his life working abroad. All five of his children grew up to do the same, as the quest for a better life scattered them across the globe. A daughter, Rosalie, went farthest--to Texas as a registered nurse. Her journey from the Manila slums to the Houston suburbs is the greatest poverty success story I know.
I trace the saga across three generations, and explore the rise of global migration, in my new book, A Good Provider is One Who Leaves (August 2019).
“DeParle excels in both intimate detail and sweeping scale.” –Publisher's Weekly, starred review
“A remarkably intimate look at migration’s impact on both a single family and the global community.” –Booklist, starred review
“No matter your politics or home country this will change how you think about the movement of people between poor and rich countries…one of the best books on immigration written in a generation.” –Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted
“This book sets a new standard in the literature of migration—heartmelting in the intimacy of the Portagana family story across generations and continents, and at the same time profound in its connection of that story to the broader phenomenon. Eloquence on every page.” –TOM GJELTEN, NPR correspondent and author of A Nation of Nations