Where We Come From (Hardcover)

A novel

By Oscar Cásares

Knopf, 9780525655435, 272pp.

Publication Date: May 21, 2019

Other Editions of This Title:
Digital Audiobook (5/20/2019)

List Price: 25.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


A stunning and timely novel about a Mexican-American family in Brownsville, Texas, that reluctantly becomes involved in smuggling immigrants into the United States.

From a distance, the towns along the U.S.-Mexican border have dangerous reputations--on one side, drug cartels; on the other, zealous border patrol agents--and Brownsville is no different. But to twelve-year-old Orly, it's simply where his godmother Nina lives--and where he is being forced to stay the summer after his mother's sudden death.

For Nina, Brownsville is where she grew up, where she lost her first and only love, and where she stayed as her relatives moved away and her neighborhood deteriorated. It's the place where she has buried all her secrets--and now she has another: she's providing refuge for a young immigrant boy named Daniel, for whom traveling to America has meant trading one set of dangers for another. 

Separated from the violent human traffickers who brought him across the border and pursued by the authorities, Daniel must stay completely hidden. But Orly's arrival threatens to put them all at risk of exposure.

Tackling the crisis of U.S. immigration policy from a deeply human angle, Where We Come From explores through an intimate lens the ways that family history shapes us, how secrets can burden us, and how finding compassion and understanding for others can ultimately set us free.

About the Author

OSCAR CÁSARES is the author of Brownsville, a collection of stories that was an American Library Association Notable Book of 2004, and is now included in the curriculum at several American universities, and the novel Amigoland. He is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Copernicus Society of America, and the Texas Institute of Letters. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he teaches creative writing at the University of Texas in Austin, where he lives.

Praise For Where We Come From: A novel

“[A] deeply human novel. . . . Concerned with what it means to make a life in a place where so many systems and institutions are designed to make you feel precarious and, in some way, permanently unrooted. . . . There are many moments of quiet power. . . . A story about the meaning of family and home.”
—Omar El Akkad, BookPage

“Evenly and quickly paced . . . this novel is suffused with boredom and menace—twins of a fugitive existence, punctuated by moments of pure terror. . . . Cásares’s characters are finely wrought. . . . Cásares doesn’t flinch from the ugliness, neither does he hit you over the head with it. Cásares is making a bid for our humanity, but he isn’t peddling fairy tales. Even so, the end . . . which is pitch-perfect, gave me goosebumps and left me nodding, with a small smile on my face.”
—Michelle Newby Lancaster, Lone Star Literary Life

“Potent. . . . Powerful. . . . A novel that addresses the complexities of immigration, identity, and assimilation while telling close, intimate stories. . . . Each voice in this chorus has something urgent to say. . . . Helping us learn the truth about who we are individually and as a society. . . . Delivers a truly timeless emotional punch.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Thoughtful and quietly suspenseful. . . . While keeping the focus on family dynamics and the characters’ internal struggles, Cásares frequently, and often heartbreakingly, sets this domestic story in a wider context by stepping back to investigate the stories of people with whom the main characters interact only tangentially (a waiter who provides room service for Orly’s father in San Francisco; the gardener who cleans the gutters at Orly’s house in Houston). With understated grace and without sermonizing, Cásares brilliantly depicts the psychological complexity of living halfway in one place and halfway in another.”
Publishers Weekly
“In this gentle novel, Cásares has done a beautiful job. . .creating a vivid portrait of a boy caught between two worlds. The story is a necessary exercise in empathy at a time when there is too little. . . . [A] heartfelt story about an intensely timely subject that demands attention.”

“A fantastic story of familial love that dares us to question the condition of our humanity.”
—Ernesto Quiñonez, author of Bodega Dreams

Where We Come From is more than an enlightening tale about the multilayered emotional intricacies of life along the U.S.-Mexico line. It is a sweeping portrait of two kinless boys seeking for each other and the woman risking her all for them. This novel—it grabbed me and hasn’t let go of me yet.”
—Antonio Ruiz-Camacho, author of Barefoot Dogs

“Where We Come From seethes with the nearly silent desperation of people trying to survive in the shadows. It erupts like a slow-motion detonation, with a force that will ultimately lift you up and lay you flat. As true and timely a novel as I can imagine: a novel very much of our time, and timeless in its telling of human struggle and connection.”
—Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

“Questions of justice and mercy haunt the lives of every character: a fascinating world and, even better, gives a glimpse of what it takes to get along with strangers as we wish those strangers would get along with us.”
—Laura Furman, author of The Mother Who Stayed and series editor of The O. Henry Prize Stories

Where We Come From is a beautiful and powerful novel. Timely, yes, but it transcends our contemporary era through its focus on family, risk, and loyalty. Oscar Cásares writes with uncanny insight and compassion.”
—Chris Offutt, author of Country Dark   

“Wildly beautiful, making you both emotional and amused, wistful and joyous, for the violent yet graceful world it entails, one that feels in turns immense and transient.”
—Pajtim Statovci, author of Crossing

“With his powers as raconteur and cuentista on full display, Cásares brings searing reportage to this deeply moving tale of interwoven lives on the Texas-Mexico border, and the greater human diaspora of which it is a part. In a quietly prophetic way, he stories the border as a place of American becoming, where a new sense of our humanity is taking shape, that no wall or barrier can hold back.”
—John Phillip Santos, author of Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation

“Casares has written the novel of our times.”
—E.C. Osondu, winner of The Caine Prize for African Writing