A Word Against the Wall

Sulfur Springs by William Kent KruegerThe issue at the heart of my newest novel, Sulfur Springs, has generated a good deal of adverse reaction. I am, I freely admit, an unrepentant bleeding-heart liberal, and my response to the tragic situation involving refugees coming across our border with Mexico rises out of a deep compassion for anyone in desperate need. I have received a number of notes from previously committed fans who now tell me that because I followed my own conscience in the writing of this story they will never read another of my novels. They must listen to their own hearts, as I must listen to mine.

I’ve received permission from the author to publish the note below. Better than any fiction I might create, it tells the tragic story of what happens when we erect walls, legal or otherwise, built primarily out of fear.

My sister, Cecilia Allen, and I have been your devoted fans since Iron Lake, and we have never missed one of your thrilling books. We have especially loved all of the Cork O’Connor novels, but you really outdid yourself with Sulfur Springs.

That book deeply touched our hearts. You see, my sister and I are the daughters of an illegal immigrant. Our mother was not born in Mexico or South America, but in a tent in the jungles of Burma in 1920. Her parents were Greek, and Grandfather was the chief metallurgical engineer for the Burma Railroad. No doctor was in attendance, and no record of Mother’s birth was made. In 1922, the family of three came to America, entering through Ellis Island. To avoid the expensive head tax immigrants had to pay, our grandfather smuggled Mother into the country in a potato sack. The family settled in East Tennessee, and Grandfather did very well in America. 

Our mother never had a birth certificate, and her parents refused to help her because they feared being arrested for smuggling her into the country. Therefore, Mother remained an illegal immigrant all of her life, always in constant fear of being discovered and deported. She never got to vote, and without a passport, she could not travel outside the country. Nevertheless, Mother contributed value to this country every day of her life. She even drove a truck for the U.S. Army during World War II.

I am telling you all of this because my sister and I want you to know how much your book means to us. Our hope is that all of your readers will understand a little bit more about the plight of those who come to this country illegally, whether under their own accord or as children. The vast majority of them contribute to the success of this country, and as you point out in Sulfur Springs, all they want is to work hard, earn a decent living, and give their children a better life than they had. They are not rapists or murderers, but good people who only want to live in safety and peace. 

We hope your book receives nothing but praise. You have spoken the truth, and we fear that some will not accept that truth. Please continue to speak out, though. This country desperately needs more voices like yours. We sincerely appreciate the risk you took in writing this book.

In loving memory of Nancy Josephine Marius, October 13, 1920–January 24, 1970 

Postscript: When I was about 8 years old, our mother witnessed a bank robbery in a nearby rural town. Although she told our father about it, she did not tell my sister or me because she did not want to worry us. A day or so after the robbery, two FBI agents came to our house for a follow-up interview with Mother. I happened to answer the door, and when they showed me their badges and said who they were, I started screaming. I threw myself against them and begged them not to take Mother away. Of course, they had no idea why I was upset. Fortunately, Mother heard the commotion and came running out and shushed me. The experience was so traumatic that I still feel the fear in the pit of my stomach today.

Thank you for taking the time to read this enlightening account.

Blessings,
Kent

25 thoughts on “A Word Against the Wall”

  1. I, too, have been an avid reader of your novels. I have recommended them to many of my friends. I’ve even enjoyed listening to you when you were in areas close enough to visit with me. It is too bad that people who disagree with you are so narrow minded as to never again want to read one of your fine novels. Having been a moderate Republican all of my life, I would probably not agree with you some of the time. However, after reading Sulfur Springs, I fully am in your court! Several years ago, I read Tortilla Curtain and was appalled at the mistreatment of some undocumented people that were chasing the American Dream. I have always felt that you treated current events with much knowledge and thoughtfulness. Keep writing and I will keep reading!

  2. Dear Kent, without having read this latest book. I KNOW I will feel your compassion. We are big fans, have read all of your books, and had the honor of being in attendance at two of your readings. Anyone who has met you knows immediately that you have a huge, giving, caring heart and a very intelligent mind. As I sit down to read my signed copy (thank you!) of Sulphur Springs, I will keep Ms . Marius and her children in my mind and my heart. I stand with you as a bleeding heart liberal!

  3. I wish to thank you for writing Sulphur Springs. I believe that the more we can do to educate the people of the US about the plight of our illegal immigrants, the better off we will be. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and await many more of your books.
    Thank you,
    Mary Schmitt

  4. I love all your books. To those who have vowed to never read another book of yours I suggest it will be their loss. If you tell me how many customers you have lost I will purchase additional copies in their honor. Thanks for your words.

  5. Kent, first of all I do not consider you a “bleeding-heart liberal” but rather a wise man. I have read all of the Cork O’Connor books to this point; I have not yet read “Sulfur Springs” but will soon. The anecdote you shared here demonstrates how painful our current president’s immigration policy is and how continuing it will affect so many more people. The THOUGHT of a border wall is so repugnant to me as to make me nauseous. Anyone who uses your liberal stance as a reason not to read your books is close minded and doesn’t deserve to read your fine books! I remember from high school English (a long time ago): “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to death your right to say it.”

  6. Thank you for following your heart and conscience in the writing and publishing of Sulfur Springs! I was riveted to the story, saddened (and maddened) by the actions of some. We know this is what happens along our border, and no one speaks about it. I thank those who stand up to this, and help those seeking refuge. I have recommended Sulfur Springs to many, and will continue to do so. I have long been a fan of your books, and am looking forward to many more.

  7. It is sad that we have to admit there are some closed and narrow minded folks living in our great country. While I regret they do not see the truth and heart in your book, Sulfur Springs, I more regret they don’t recognize the desecration happening in our Nation. I have read all your books and will continue to do so. Thank you for telling it like it is!

  8. I too am a “bleeding heart ” liberal and have always anxiously awaited your next book. Sulfer Springs deeply touched me. Since I have lived in this wonderful state of Arizona since 1982 I have experienced the all sides of the immigration issue. I welcome your latest book & will continue to do so!!! Thank you.

  9. It is very surprising to me that people say that they won’t read your books because of the view point on immigration. I read a lot of books which have a view point I don’t agree with, that is the beauty of fiction. You go outside your comfort zone. Love your novels.

  10. My husband and I love your books. We have read them all and will continue to be your fans. We all should have a open mind and look at all view points. If we shut out view points different then ours – there will be no growth and understanding. Thank you, Lou Ann ( a proud Minnesotan).

  11. I have not had the opportunity to read Sulphur Springs. I love your books, and I feel you have a right to your opinion and I have a right to mine. I will never stop reading your books, especially Cork O’Connor. I intend to buy them and read them because I truly enjoy them. Keep up the good work and always be proud of who you are, and fight for what you believe in. I will never stop reading your books.

  12. After I finished Sulfur Springs, I knew there would be some folks out there who disagreed with the book’s (your) stance on immigration. However, to swear off your future books (presumably not about immigration) because of this one issue, when they have enjoyed the previous ones, bewilders me. Definitely their loss. I am a middle-of-the-roader, more conservative fiscally, more liberal socially. I have friends on both sides of the fence and am accustomed to navigating conversations kind of carefully sometimes and agreeing to disagree. I certainly have my own personal convictions, but I can’t imagine one that would make me want to walk away from Cork, Rainy, Jenny, Wahboo, Stephen … and Henry. Continue to follow your conscience and your muse, Kent; I’m right behind you.

  13. I haven’t had a chance to read the book yet (it’s on the list for a Christmas gift!) However, I certainly agree with all the above comments. Those who don’t wish to read your books are the losers.

  14. Your quote at the end is exactly right. That’s what a true patriot says and the way I feel. Closed minds did not form this country.

  15. Dear Kent

    If there is one thing I value more than your ability to tell a terrific story in beautiful prose, it is your humanity. Sulfur Springs like many of your other books is an act of literature and of social justice.

  16. Dear Kent. I have read all of your books and really enjoyed all of them. I now really look forward to reading Sulfur Springs and agree with all of the great comments made by those that penned in comments before me.
    Sulfur Springs is now on my birthday list.

  17. I just finished the book last night and truly enjoyed it. It may me stop and think about what has happened. I am anxious to reread some passages that caused me to pause and consider current conditions. Thank you for writing such a thought-provoking novel.

  18. My thoughts exactly. I’m a moderate Republican; meaning fiscally conservative, but socially moderate. And as a person of faith it breaks my heart to see refugees and immigrants just trying to make life better for their families turned away. The sacrifices they make to get here is heroic by most measures. I loved Sulphur Springs. And I’m grown up to know that occasionally we will agree to disagree. And isn’t that awesome that we can?

  19. I have enjoyed reading your works for many years and feel the humanity in all of them and especially in Sulfer Springs. For those who feel they will not buy another W.K. Krueger novel it’s OK, I’ll buy two. I’ll share one remembering there are two sides to every wall.

  20. Your politics, although I definitely share your views, have nothing to do with the fact that you are a tremendously talented writer. I’ve enjoyed all your books and look forward to the next book in the Cork O’Connor series or for that matter anything else you decide to write to entertain your fans. Kudos to you Mr. Krueger!

  21. Kent,

    I am only up to Northwest Angle (#11) in the Cork O’Connor series, but, I am trying to catch up 🙂 .

    All I can say is “Nice response to the criticism.” My feeling is, if “dedicated fans” are willing to lose out on one of their favorite authors because of their political beliefs, that’s their loss.

    I too am left leaning (some of my right-leaning friends think I’m a bleeding heart liberal, some of my left leaning friends think I’m a Nazi), but, that doesn’t stop me from reading the far right books that I enjoy.

    Keep up the good fight sir!

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