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Divided by Borders

Mexican Migrants and Their Children

Joanna Dreby (Author)


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Since 2000, approximately 440,000 Mexicans have migrated to the United States every year. Tens of thousands have left children behind in Mexico to do so. For these parents, migration is a sacrifice. What do parents expect to accomplish by dividing their families across borders? How do families manage when they are living apart? More importantly, do parents' relocations yield the intended results? Probing the experiences of migrant parents, children in Mexico, and their caregivers, Joanna Dreby offers an up-close and personal account of the lives of families divided by borders. What she finds is that the difficulties endured by transnational families make it nearly impossible for parents' sacrifices to result in the benefits they expect. Yet, paradoxically, these hardships reinforce family members' commitments to each other. A story both of adversity and the intensity of family ties, Divided by Borders is an engaging and insightful investigation of the ways Mexican families struggle and ultimately persevere in a global economy.
Preface: Ordinary Families, Extraordinary Families

1. Sacrifice
2. Ofelia and Germán Cruz: Migrant Time versus Child Time
3. Gender and Parenting from Afar
4. Armando López on Fatherhood
5. Children and Power during Separation
6. Middlewomen
7. Cindy Rodríguez between Two Worlds
8. Divided by Borders

Appendix A: Research Design
Appendix B: Family Descriptions
Joanna Dreby is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Kent State University.
“Dreby analyzes these themes through a transnational lens. In doing so, she offers new and important insights into the lives of immigrant families.”—Journal Of Sociology
“Offers insightful analysis.”—Choice
“An excellent introduction to immigration, globalization, gender, childhood, immigration policy, and transnational family issues.”—Journal Of Marriage & Family
“An important contribution to immigration scholarship.”—Social Forces
“Illuminating. . . . An important addition to both family and migration scholarship.”—Jessica M. Vasquez Du Bois Review & Transition
“Divided By Borders: Mexican Migrants and Their Children combines comprehensive, rich ethnographic data with existing literature on migration and transnational parenting. . . . [Dreby] provides a compassionate lens for analysing migration, a lens that is frequently missing from conventional discussions of Mexican-American migration.”—Alexandra Shaheen Journal Of Ethnic & Migration Stds
“Just a phone call away, but what anguish! As employers of migrants who care for our children, clean our houses, work in fast food restaurants—or on the shop floor—we are so often blind to the sacrifices made by parents who see no other choice but to leave their children back home in Mexico and come to the U.S. for work. With passion and insight, Divided by Borders explores the agony that unfolds between husbands and wives, across generation, and the consequences on children left behind and those who cross the border."—Carol B. Stack, author of All Our Kin and Call To Home

“In this compelling, intimate, and heartbreaking look into the lives of Mexican migrants who leave children, Dreby brings an impressive blend of ethnography, interviews, and surveys with parents, children, and caregivers—collected over four years on both sides of the border—to bear. This is a story of migration where parental sacrifice is monumental, yet dreams for intergenerational mobility are ultimately dashed. The work is rich with both sociological insight and policy importance. This is the rare academic work that readers will find hard to put down.“—Kathy Edin, author of Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Choose Motherhood Before Marriage

“Joanna Dreby's excellent book illuminates dimensions of migration and transnational life that have remained too often in the dark. Her focus on what happens inside the 'black box' of the migrant family shows how migrants and their children live their lives in difficult circumstances. She deepens our understanding of many important issues, and does so via intimate, ethnographic research. For example, her work sheds light on the gendered practices and ideologies surrounding parental leave taking, and sheds light on the incompatibility of migrant time and developmental time. Her work on the power children wield in the intra-family negotiations on whether and when to reunite, and the long term human cost of migration, is pathbreaking. Watching Joanna Dreby's work develop into this book over the years has been a great joy, and reading it is even more so.”—Robert Courtney Smith, Professor of Sociology, Immigration Studies and Public Affairs, Baruch College School of Public Affairs, and Sociology Department, Graduate Center, CUNY

“Family separation brought about by labor migration is not new, but hostile immigration policies have made for prolonged separations for parents and children. How do families cope? In this gripping and acutely observed study of Mexican migrant families, Joanna Dreby reveals the multi-faceted challenges facing the parents, their children and teens (who often harbor resentment against parents), and the grandmothers who serve as caregivers 'back home.' This engagingly written book is ideal for classroom adoption, and it will become a classic contribution to the scholarship on families and contemporary immigration.”—Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo, author of God's Heart Has No Borders

2011 Book Award, Association for Humanist Sociology

Thomas and Znaniecki Book Award, American Sociological Association Section on International Migration

William J. Goode Book Award, American Sociological Association Family Section

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