This article was written by one of our Teen Correspondents and was originally published on VOX Atlanta Teen Communications. Thanks to Turner Voices and the Arby’s Foundation, we’re able to collaborate with VOX Teen Communications to share the perspectives of the next generation of arts writers with our city’s cultural community.
Tears well up in her eyes as author Marie Marquardt explains how she writes from a broken heart. On January 19, Marquardt shared her experience along with those of her colleagues at Emory University’s Barnes and Noble, reading from her newest novel, The Radius of Us.
Marquardt decided to tell this story from two shifting points of view. The first is from the mindset of an American girl who no longer feels safe anywhere, even in her own home, and the second is from a boy who has fled El Salvador and is looking for a place to call home. By writing in dual perspectives, Marquardt puts the reader in both Gretchen and Phoenix’s shoes. The Radius of Us has similar themes to Marquardt’s first novel, Dream Things True, of the difficulties in love, family and immigration.
As co-chair of El Refugio, a nonprofit which serves detained immigrants and their families, Marquardt said she hears the tragic stories almost every day. While receiving letters written mostly by adults who wish to share their experiences in hopes of enforcing change, Marquardt was surprised to receive one from a child. This child was one of the main inspirations of her second novel.
According to PBS Newshour, the number of unaccompanied children entering U.S. custody has skyrocketed since 2012. The majority of these children are fleeing from poverty and gang violence. There is a lot of misunderstanding about immigration.
The Radius of Us takes on the difficult topic of immigration in a way that connects readers to the hardships people face in an attempt to find safety. It teaches teens about the realities of immigration in a way they will willingly read and understand. Marquardt makes readers really feel like they know the characters; she found a way to let us in on their lives. I found myself rooting for Phoenix and so many others like him.
Gretchen and Phoenix have both been through things that no one should have to go through. Although they come from vastly different backgrounds, they are each learning to deal with their internal struggles from assault to gang violence, as well as figuring out who they are. As their relationship builds they discover how to trust and feel safe once more.
The Radius of Us is exactly what Marquardt hoped it would be: a story of love, hope and, quite possibly, a happy ending.