Saturday, July 13, 2013 — This Sunday, Parade features a book excerpt from The Longest Road, out July 16, which chronicles Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Philip Caputo's cross-country drive in search of what binds Americans together, and pushes us apart. Along his 6,000-mile route from Key West, Florida, to Deadhorse, Alaska, he tries to understand what unites a nation that is as vast as it is diverse.
The Parade excerpt focuses on Caputo's visit to Grand Island, Nebraska, population 48,500, where he finds tension over new immigrants, drawn to the area's huge JBS meatpacking plant. Grand Island includes newly arrived Sudanese, Somalis, Laotians, and Mexicans living alongside descendants of the original German settlers. "This melting pot," writes Caputo, "seemed to be on high simmer." But he also found evidence that the American Dream is alive and well.
There ishope and optimism in stories like that of Filemon Sanchez, whose experience recalls the classic immigrant trajectory. The obstacles Sanchez has overcome to getfrom southern Mexico, the son of a poor subsistence farmer, through his years as a migrant worker, on to where he is now, the hardworking owner of Sanchez Plaza, a restaurant, grocery store, and bakery in Grand Island, makes him much more than a small businessman in a small city in a sparsely populated state. In Caputo's view, it makes him remarkable.
"It's as if a magical pollen swirls in the air of this country," Caputo writes, "summoning up dreams in the waking mind."
To read more about Caputo's discoveries and observations, check out Sunday's issue of Parade, inside The Stanly News & Press.