Columbia, SC (WLTX) Given the current political climate a University of South Carolina student's senior thesis is a very timely topic, the migrant worker. The Richland Library hosted Ben Youngblood and author Michel Stone to read exerpts from their works and lead a discussion on in a program they called, Finding a Voice: Stories of Latino Migrants in America
Part of Ben Youngblood's thesis is a collection of interviews of migrant workers and other immigrants. He tells News 19, growing up in rural South Carolina where agriculture was the main economy that was fuled by the migrants who worked in the peach orchards. The children of the migrant workers were his friends. He says he had the idea of the thesis over a year ago. He says, "Given the current political climate, I think it's even more important to share these stories, and to do what I can to humanize migrants and make them people instead of statistics."
In the experpts Youngbloods reads: "What do you want for your children?" And a mother answers much like every mother would answer. She says, "I want my children to go to school and study and have a career. I want them to do better than I did."
Fellow panel member, novelist Michel Stone says its that human condition that connects us all. She also writes about immigrants. The only difference is her characters are fictional and loosely based on people she's met in her life.
Stone says, "Ten or 12 years ago I met a couple that was undocumentedand. They told me that they had crossed with thier baby. I couldn't imagine doing that. I had so many questions. What did they think they were coming to?. Why were they leaving where they were and lots of other questions. And so they told me how they crossed and how they crossed with their baby and their story haunted me and I couldn't get them out of my mind.
Those thoughts led Stone to write a short story and then her first novel, "The Iguana Tree." Her second novel, "Border Child" was released just a few days ago. It tells the story of an immigrant couple and picks up four years after they crossed the border and their baby was taken away. They are now back in thier home country, searching for their baby.
Stone says, "I think all fiction at it's core should speak to the human condition and I always say I don't think this is a political book. It certainly wasn't my intention to be a political book. But I would like to think will see something of ourselves in these characters, regardless of initially how they see themselves, because all people experience childhood and life and death and that whole realm of human emotion."
Both writers hope that through showing the diversity in their work, those who read it, will see ways in which we are all the same.
Youngblood says, "Through this thesis and my sampling techniques, I've come to understand that its far beyond anything that I could have imagined and that stereotypes just aren't true at all, aren't a true reflection at all. Trying help people to attain a level of understanding that's beyond what we are fed in the media and what those on high, the politicians, want us to believe."
The final portion of Youngblood's thesis will be the response he got on surveys from participants about their view of migrant workers.
If you would like to check out Michel Stone's books just go to her website, michelstone.com