Lucky Boy

An acclaimed author next week will offer insights into the hope-filled, but sometimes agonizing, personal experiences of those caught up in the U.S. immigration system.

Novelist Shanthi Sekaran will speak at Livermore’s Bankhead Theater Thursday, Nov. 14. Her 7:30 p.m. talk is part of the Rae Dorough Speaker Series.

Sekaran is the author of “Lucky Boy,” a novel about the immigration system that won critical praise, and a place on multiple “best book” lists after publication two years ago.

In an email, she said she plans to tell the Bankhead audience “a bit about my book, about the writing of it and the personal journey it took me on, and also about the complexities and layers of the U.S. immigration system I discovered as I was writing it.”

She added, “This won't be a policy talk -- I'm definitely not an expert on policy. It will be more of a discussion of how the creation of a story helped me gain powerful insight into the real-life story of U.S. immigration.”

Sekaran became interested in the psychology of people caught up in the U.S. immigration process after learning about a Guatemalan woman whose baby was adopted by an American couple while she was being deported from the U.S.

As a novelist, and as a mother herself, Sekaran was deeply curious about the kinds of love, need and rationalization that might lead adoptive parents to “(take) a child away from its willing and able mother,” as she told an interviewer recently.

“Lucky Boy” explores such issues mainly from the perspectives of the two women most deeply involved. They are a naïve, undocumented and impoverished Mexican immigrant (Soli) who gives birth in the U.S.; and an Indian-American woman (Kavya) who adopts the child.

Much of Lucky Boy’s action is set in Berkeley, where Sekaran lives.

The Berkeley environment is generally hospitable, but Soli experiences fear, isolation and even brutality as she tries to navigate the economic and social systems of a strange new country.

Kavya, herself the daughter of immigrants, is relatively well off and economically secure. As Sekaran points out in a published interview, “this book is not just about adoption and detention, but about privileged and unprivileged immigration, and about