Lauren Markham is the author of the forthcoming A Map of Future Ruins: On Borders and Belonging, out from Riverhead Books in February 2024.
A fiction writer, essayist and journalist, her work most often concerns issues related to youth, migration, the environment and her home state of California. Markham’s first book, The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life (Crown, September 2017) was the winner of the 2018 Ridenhour Book Prize, the Northern California Book Award, and a California Book Award Silver Prize. It was named a Barnes & Noble Discover Selection, a New York Times Book Critics’ Top Book of 2017, and was shortlisted for the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize and the L.A. Times Book Award and longlisted for a Pen America Literary Award in Biography.
Her writing has appeared in outlets such as VQR (where she is a contributing editor), Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, The New York Review of Books, The New Republic, Guernica, Freeman’s, Mother Jones, Orion, The Atlantic, Lit Hub, California Sunday, Zyzzyva, The Georgia Review, The Best American Travel Writing 2019, and on This American Life. She has been awarded fellowships from The Mesa Refuge, UC Berkeley, Middlebury College, the McGraw Center, the French American Foundation, the Society for Environmental Journalists, the Silvers Prize, the de Groot Foundation, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.
In addition to writing, Markham has spent fifteen years working at the intersection of education and immigration. She teaches writing at the Ashland University MFA in Writing Program and the University of San Francisco.
Excerpt from The Far Away Brothers (2017)
“You boys from eighteen?” one of the young men said, pointing his gun toward the retaining wall marked by a small graffito tag: barrio 18.
It was 2008. The Flores twins, twelve, were playing poker on the town soccer field with their older brother and six friends when the pickup pulled up. Ten or so guys stood in the truck bed brandishing guns and machetes, sporting hip-hop clothes and tattoos. They were MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, the twins knew—members of the gang that was then slinking into the small town of La Colonia. The Flores boys and their friends were high on adrenaline from having won a big soccer match that morning, a feeling that mixed nicely with the bravado of early adolescence. But the sight of the armed men scared them silent.
They shook their heads no.
“I asked you a question!” barked the guy in the truck.
Ernesto’s gaze was lowered, but he could feel the men staring down at him. “I asked if you f***ers were from eighteen!” the man shouted. At that, one of their friends took off running into the woods. Suddenly— they couldn’t remember who moved first—the twins were sprinting through the forest that flanked the town soccer field, Ernesto first, Raúl close behind, panting and flying over dips and gullies, pushing past banana trees and crashing through the tall grasses while shouts and a scatter of gunshots crackled behind them.
Running away from a truck of gangsters was either an admission of guilt (in this case, allegiance to the rival Barrio 18 gang) or, at the very least, a sign of a lack of respect for MS-13 authority.
When the shouts felt far enough away, the twins hit the ground, lying on their bellies in the brush. They stayed there for what felt like several hours—until they were sure the truck was gone. They were too scared to go back to the field and look for their cards, which, for anyone vigilando, or keeping watch over the area, might tag the twins as the ones who ran. For a while, at least, no more poker.
- “Review: ‘A Map of Future Ruins: On Borders and Belonging’.” Shelf Awareness. 11 December 2023.
- “A Map of Future Ruins: On Borders and Belonging.” Kirkus Reviews. 3 November 2023.
- “Lauren Markham Documents the Story of Two Young Migrants.” Kirkus Reviews. 11 February 2020.
- “‘The Far Away Brothers’ Breathes Vivid Life Into Immigration Issues.” The New York Times. 20 September 2017.
- “These ‘Far Away Brothers’ Remake Themselves In America.” NPR. 16 September 2017.