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A novel of unequal immigration rights, set in CALIFORNIA

10th March 2023

The Fitful Sleep of Immigrants by Orlando Ortega-Medina, a novel of unequal immigration rights, set in CALIFORNIA.

A novel of unequal immigration rights, set in CALIFORNIA

The opening dedication in the book.

‘To the countless multinational same-sex couples forced to emigrate due to marriage inequality and to those progressive countries that welcomed them with open hearts’.

Marc Mendes is a lawyer in San Francisco. He is in a long term relationship with Isaac Perez. Marc is the son of a Jewish rabbi who, with his family, fled from persecution in Cuba to Los Angeles. Isaac entered the States illegally from El Salvador and has lived and worked in the US for several years. He fled El Salvador because of the murder of his brother by a right wing, government-linked, militia and threats to his family.

Marc has a past – a tragic event that becomes clear as the story progresses, and a history of drug and alcohol abuse. He is now clean and holding it together – just. Marc and Isaac are planning to move out of San Francisco to a quieter life the country. Two horrors then hit them – and strain their relationship. First, Marc – despite himself – is attracted to a client he has been working with. Alejandro Silva is not a nice person. He begins to stalk Marc, who is not entirely blameless and doesn’t really put down the boundaries to discourage him. He sends mixed messages. Second, Isaac’s past catches up with him. He receives a letter telling him the US Government is about to start deportation hearings against him. These two events put their relationship at risk. Isaac’s case eventually comes to court and his case is presented with massive support from friends and colleagues.

It is, though, an amazingly stressful experience for the couple. Issac’s case would never have come to court had he been in a legally recognised straight relationship. Its resolution leaves them with a life decision to take. They leave the States and head to Canada where they are welcomed and will not again need to face court room drama.

The characters in the book are well and sympathetically drawn. I particularly liked the description of Marc’s family and the support they gave despite their religious beliefs.

The story is personal to Orlando in two ways. First, in his day job, he is an immigration lawyer with a vast experience of such cases. Second, the story is loosely based on the experiences of Orlando and his life partner, William Campos-Ortega (they actually had one of the very first same sex marriages in Canada).

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