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Reviews of A Map of Future Ruins by Lauren Markham

A Map of Future Ruins

On Borders and Belonging

by Lauren Markham

A Map of Future Ruins by Lauren Markham X
A Map of Future Ruins by Lauren Markham
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Feb 2024, 272 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Alicia Calvo Hernández
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About this Book

Book Summary

A mesmerizing, trailblazing synthesis of reporting, history, memoir, and essay.

When and how did migration become a crime? Why does ancient Greece remain so important to the West's idea of itself? How does nostalgia fuel the exclusion and demonization of migrants today?

In 2021, Lauren Markham went to Greece, in search of her own Greek heritage and to cover the aftermath of a fire that burned down the largest refugee camp in Europe. Almost no one had wanted the camp—not activists, not the country's growing neo-fascist movement, not even the government. But almost immediately, on scant evidence, six young Afghan refugees were arrested for the crime.

Markham soon saw that she was tracing a broader narrative, rooted not only in centuries of global history but also in myth. A Map of Future Ruins helps us see that the stories we tell about migration don't just explain what happened. They are oracles: they predict the future.

Part 1
Present

1.

By September 2020, the rumors had begun. Something big was about to happen in Moria. People had had enough. Soon, some whispered, the refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos would be burned to the ground.

Moria was built in 2013, then expanded in 2015 as more and more refugee boats landed on Greece's shores. The camp was only ever meant to house 3,500 people at any given time, and only temporarily, but now, at the height of the global pandemic, some 11,000 people were crammed into Moria. "Welcome to hell!" old‑timers would shout to the newly arrived, still waterlogged from the journey across the Aegean, as they registered at the main office and were told to find a place to sleep up in the hills beneath the olive trees. Stuck in limbo now, they jockeyed for position in the meal lines, at the filthy wash facilities and toilets, in the asylum queue.

Life in the camp was a prolonged purgatory, and it was easy to lose hope. A person's asylum process could take years&#...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

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In this work Markham is not only an observer: she becomes a character. In the second part, she describes her travels through Greece and the places where her grandmother lived. Like Moria's immigrants, Markham's ancestors fled their homeland in search of a better life. And, also like Moria's immigrants, Markham is now drawn to Greece, the persistent destination of their particular odyssey. Her travels to research her family history and to report on the refugee crisis began in 2019. Moria's fire a year later became the link between these two stories she wanted to tell, the knot that ties together her large and perhaps overly ambitious project, in which she investigates the mechanisms of myth-making, belonging, exclusion, borders and whiteness. By interweaving all these journeys, her story ceases to be the simple narration of a specific case and becomes a general commentary on migration, as Moria's story is "about the criminalization of contemporary migration, yes, but also about the valorization of past times and migrations."..continued

Full Review Members Only (702 words)

(Reviewed by Alicia Calvo Hernández).

Media Reviews

New York Times
An expansive meditation on the roles of myth and politics in the stories we construct about our origins.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
A remarkable, unnerving, and cautionary portrait of a global immigration crisis.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Journalist Markham (The Far Away Brothers) blends memoir, history, and reportage in a wide-ranging and unflinching account of Moria, an overcrowded refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos that burned to the ground in September 2020...Interspersed throughout are powerful ruminations on ancient Greece as the birthplace of classical Western ideals and the myth-making process inherent to all migration stories. Readers will be thoroughly engrossed.

Author Blurb Adam Hochschild, author of American Midnight and King Leopold's Ghost
A masterful, multilayered story by a writer with a sharp, questioning mind and a big heart.

Author Blurb Ingrid Rojas Contreras, author of Fruit of the Drunken Tree and The Man Who Could Move Clouds
Luminous and expansive ... Markham shows us what we most urgently need to see.

Author Blurb Jonathan Blitzer, author of Everyone Who Is Gone Is Here
Pushes beyond the news to interrogate the collective myths we tell ourselves about community, belonging, and the lives of immigrants.

Author Blurb Thi Bui, author of The Best We Could Do
Meticulous and exuberant, this is a journalist's wayfinding journey to map a truthful account of the current refugee crisis.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Classical Culture and White Nationalism

Modern imagining of how a classical statue may have been colored, depicting a barefoot man with staff and pink-and-blue garments The hands of history have reshaped the Greek past for centuries, sculpting it into an idealized version credited with birthing a myriad of ideas and concepts, notably identity. Certain contemporary political currents claim that Hellenic identity was what we would today consider white, although Greece was a multiethnic society that did not have our modern concepts of race.

Groups promoting racist ideology have pushed the interpretation that the apparent lack of color and ornamentation in Greco-Roman classical sculpture, which is in fact due to the erosion of pigments over time, is indicative of a more advanced and sophisticated culture resulting from the supposed superiority of white Europeans. As Lauren Markham writes in A Map of ...

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