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Gwendolyn was hired to a tenure track position in Sociology at Northwestern the year I started to write my dissertation. We met at a rally for the teachers’ union in Chicago, Local 1. I brought Virgil, and she stopped to pet him— and for that bit of nuzzling alone Virgil has earned his lifetime of grunting ease.

Gwendolyn’s field of study is immigration, and she focuses on a single city in Mexico— Puebla. She is not herself from Puebla (she’s from Maryland), and she talks about her work in academic terms. But that work documents how many people from Puebla die crossing the desert border with Arizona every year, and the effect on local economies in the US of having undocumented workers in them (it is huge: far from getting services they don’t pay for, as white people claim, these workers add economic value to communities by not going to the hospital when they get sick, and not reporting crimes when they get robbed, and not collecting the money deducted from their paychecks that goes into their invented social security accounts).

She does her work with professional reserve; it has been a decade since she started this project, so she is not paralyzed by the enormity of her data. When she tells people at parties about her work she no longer wonders why so many of them force smiles and turn away.

I would like someone, maybe a graduate student, to trace the connection between Gwendolyn’s work and the lives of Poblanos today. Is there a family that can live a little bit better in their own city because of a sociologist from Annapolis who teaches in Chicago? Is there a young mother who will survive two nights in the Arizona desert with her infant because of a book called Here and There?

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