• Barbara Fischkin
  • Kindle Tale: How A Landmark Book On Immigration Became New Again - Part One
Kindle Tale: How A Landmark Book On Immigration Became New Again - Part One

“…about twenty-eight years ago, I hugged and held on to a thirty-something newspaper reporter as tightly as I think I have ever held on to another human being” 


From a new epilogue by Mauricio J. Almonte,  in the second edition of Muddy Cup: A Dominican Family Comes of Age in a New America by Barbara Fischkin.


 By Barbara Fischkin

 It is 1986 and I am that newspaper reporter. 

The 11-year-old boy who hugs me and holds me has come to an airport in Puerto Plata on the Northern coast of the Dominican Republic to say goodbye to his mother and eldest sister. They have visas to join his father in New York. But the boy–Mauricio-has been denied a visa because a consular official incorrectly believes his father does not make enough money as a construction worker to support him, too. For the same reason another sister  also has been denied a visa.

Then, as now,  immigration policy often works to split up families who want to stay together.

As for me, I was getting on that plane with as much ease as I had gotten off of it because I was an American writing a yearlong newspaper story about one family’s immigration. A few weeks earlier I had met Mauricio's bereft mother at the United States  Consulate in Santo Domingo.  A higher-ranking official there suggested that Roselia Almonte's family would be good subjects.  This confounded me. The consulate had just denied two children visas and now this official wanted me to write about that. I could only conclude she was not a fan of immigration policy herself, at least not this one.

I  don’t remember promising Mauricio I would be back to get him.  I couldn't.  All I could do was write the stories about this boy, his family and the upcoming reunion that would not include him.

 Fortunately, Gary Ackerman,  a congressman from Queens who later would become a powerful player in  foreign relations, read my stories and arranged for visas for Mauricio and his sister.

Great for Mauricio. Bad, perhaps for my career. Rumor, unsubstantiated to this day, had it that the series was  “on the table” for  a Pulitzer but didn’t make it to the finals because it purportedly lacked the suspense it might have had if Mauricio had been treated like any other immigrant.


 But life is about more than winning one prize.

I wasn’t a mother the day Mauricio hugged me so tightly I can still feel it. It may have been the first time I felt a true maternal instinct, although a vicarious once since he had a mother of his own, a valiant one.

 Now, as a “vintage” mother myself-of two young men in their twenties -I know things worked out even better than I had expected.

The series I wrote about Mauricio's family ultimately won a prestigious Livingston Award for International Reporting. Years later Scribner gave me a respectable contract to write about not one but fifty years in the life of the Almonte family. The book MUDDY CUP was reviewed well nationally and "blurbed," as they said in those days, by such writers as Julia Alvarez, William Kennedy and Ken Auletta and by Silvio Torres-Saillant, the founder of the Dominican Studies Institute at the City University of New York.

As Mauricio finished middle school, high school and college and moved on to graduate studies our social and intellectual friendship blossomed.  We felt like family. And this year, Mauricio,  now a writer himself who teaches college students, gave me a push and the help I needed to do something I had been hoping to accomplish for years.  He helped me to put his family’s story on Kindle. This was so important because the book had been used as a required text in a number of universities and colleges for years but the remaindered hard copies were getting harder to find.

Mauricio worked the project to a fare-the-well, helping and advising with almost every aspect of it. He even wrote an update on his family, which is now that epilogue to the new edition. He has presented the book with me in person and by Skype to two colleges, with more to come.

In another blog - next week - I plan to take readers behind the scenes to show how, with Mauricio’s help, the hard copy version of MUDDY CUP  became that second edition Kindle version. I hope to write about the process and pass on what I have learned. And discuss how I hope to market it.

 But first, a little more on what happened to the 11-year-old boy who once didn’t have a visa.

Today, Mauricio J. Almonte teaches at Florida Atlantic University. Editoria Collado in Santo Domingo is about to publish his first book, which analyzes 15,000 letters to the editor of a Santo Domingo newspaper-and in doing so provides a fascinating illumination of the history of the Dominican Republic. He’s at work on an unconventional novel on “love and other forms of madness.” Also, his students love him.

I can’t say I am surprised.


 Here is a recent photo I took with Mauricio:



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