Jason DeParle's book A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves was reviewed in the Washington Post.
There is a family separation that occurs long before an immigrant reaches America’s borders. It is no less wrenching than the ruptures that the Trump administration inflicted on thousands of children and parents last year as part of its “zero tolerance” policy against illegal entry, and may at times be even more painful, since it happens voluntarily. That is, if acts born of despair can ever be described as entirely voluntary.
In A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves, journalist Jason DeParle’s riveting multigenerational tale of one Filipino family dispersing across the globe, from Manila to Abu Dhabi to Galveston, Tex., and so many places in between, separation is a constant worry and endless toll. Parents leave their kids and country for years at a time so they can send back wages many multiples of what they previously earned. Children yearn for their parents, rebelling or wilting without them, while the youngest latch on to aunts and grandparents. Births, birthdays, weddings, illnesses, funerals — daily life slips by for the absent, imagined and unexperienced. Meanwhile, the government encourages the exodus; 1 in 7 laborers in the Philippines becomes an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW), a status so common it rates not just an acronym but also an industry of private middlemen and government agencies managing a sector that accounts for one-10th of the country’s economy.
But the price is loneliness and longing. “The two main themes of Overseas Filipino Worker life are homesickness and money,” DeParle writes. “Workers suffer the first to get the second.” With immigration a central battleground in the Trump-era culture wars, and with the southern U.S. border and Hispanic influx dominating the political debate, this book provides crucial insight into the global scope, shifting profiles and, above all, individual sacrifices of the migrant experience.