|| The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, with a circulation of not much more than 15,000, did an extraordinary thing: they hired bilingual Isabel Valle to live a year with and write about one Texas migrant family, that of Raul and Maria Elena Martinez. The Martinez family represents a typical pattern: they own a home in Texas but spend much of the year on the road, and one of their principal destinations is Walla Walla. Valle is an ordinary stylist, but she effectively shows what migrants face in terms of housing, education, health care, and wages, demonstrating that conditions have improved little over the years. Farm safety has improved, she shows, but housing and medical care are always worsening and improving at the same time. Valle doesn't blame growers or governments; only when consumers are willing to pay more for their food can conditions improve, she says. As for the Martinez family, Valle gets to know them almost too well--raised in a middle-class environment, she is distressed by having to sleep on the floor and share the bathroom; she finds the adult Martinezes to be noble but infuriating, too. Their children become her brothers and sisters. The authenticity of the Martinez family is unmistakable, and Valle's unsentimental, nonideological approach is refreshing.
Review by: John Mort.
Written With: Rick Doyle