Maaza Mengiste is a writer and novelist. A recipient of a 2018 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, she is also a Fulbright Scholar, and a Puterbaugh Fellow. Her work has appeared in The New YorkerGranta, The Guardian, The New York Times, and Rolling Stone. Her first novel was Beneath the Lion’s Gaze (2010), her second is forthcoming. (May 2018)

Follow Maaza Mengiste on Twitter: @MaazaMengiste.


Concentration Camps for Kids: An Open Letter

Children and staff at the Trump administration’s tent facility for detaining migrant children separated from their parents, Tornillo, Texas, June 19, 2018

The US government is detaining more than 13,000 migrant children, the highest number ever; as of last month, some 250 “tender age” children aged twelve or under had not yet been reunited with their parents. Recently, the president has vowed to “put tents up all over the place” for migrants. This generation will be remembered for having allowed for concentration camps for children to be built on “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

This Is What the Journey Does

A refugee from Nigeria, Aidone, Sicily, 2017

Staring at the busy intersection, I don’t want to consider what this young man might have gone through to arrive in Italy, to be in the street on this day. That he is alive is a testament to his endurance. What he has been subjected to, what might have caused that scar, what was too much for his mind to accept—these thoughts lead the way to far darker realities than I can possibly know. I look back at the first note I took upon seeing him: “You did not leave home like this. This is what the journey does.”