The issue at the heart of my newest novel, Sulfur Springs, has generated a good deal of adverse reaction. I am, I freely admit, an unrepentant bleeding-heart liberal, and my response to the tragic situation involving refugees coming across our border with Mexico rises out of a deep compassion for anyone in desperate need. I have received a number of notes from previously committed fans who now tell me that because I followed my own conscience in the writing of this story they will never read another of my novels. They must listen to their own hearts, as I must listen to mine.
I’ve received permission from the author to publish the note below. Better than any fiction I might create, it tells the tragic story of what happens when we erect walls, legal or otherwise, built primarily out of fear.
My sister, Cecilia Allen, and I have been your devoted fans since Iron Lake, and we have never missed one of your thrilling books. We have especially loved all of the Cork O’Connor novels, but you really outdid yourself with Sulfur Springs.
That book deeply touched our hearts. You see, my sister and I are the daughters of an illegal immigrant. Our mother was not born in Mexico or South America, but in a tent in the jungles of Burma in 1920. Her parents were Greek, and Grandfather was the chief metallurgical engineer for the Burma Railroad. No doctor was in attendance, and no record of Mother’s birth was made. In 1922, the family of three came to America, entering through Ellis Island. To avoid the expensive head tax immigrants had to pay, our grandfather smuggled Mother into the country in a potato sack. The family settled in East Tennessee, and Grandfather did very well in America.
Our mother never had a birth certificate, and her parents refused to help her because they feared being arrested for smuggling her into the country. Therefore, Mother remained an illegal immigrant all of her life, always in constant fear of being discovered and deported. She never got to vote, and without a passport, she could not travel outside the country. Nevertheless, Mother contributed value to this country every day of her life. She even drove a truck for the U.S. Army during World War II.
I am telling you all of this because my sister and I want you to know how much your book means to us. Our hope is that all of your readers will understand a little bit more about the plight of those who come to this country illegally, whether under their own accord or as children. The vast majority of them contribute to the success of this country, and as you point out in Sulfur Springs, all they want is to work hard, earn a decent living, and give their children a better life than they had. They are not rapists or murderers, but good people who only want to live in safety and peace.
We hope your book receives nothing but praise. You have spoken the truth, and we fear that some will not accept that truth. Please continue to speak out, though. This country desperately needs more voices like yours. We sincerely appreciate the risk you took in writing this book.
In loving memory of Nancy Josephine Marius, October 13, 1920–January 24, 1970
Postscript: When I was about 8 years old, our mother witnessed a bank robbery in a nearby rural town. Although she told our father about it, she did not tell my sister or me because she did not want to worry us. A day or so after the robbery, two FBI agents came to our house for a follow-up interview with Mother. I happened to answer the door, and when they showed me their badges and said who they were, I started screaming. I threw myself against them and begged them not to take Mother away. Of course, they had no idea why I was upset. Fortunately, Mother heard the commotion and came running out and shushed me. The experience was so traumatic that I still feel the fear in the pit of my stomach today.
Thank you for taking the time to read this enlightening account.