Where We Come From , a new novel by Oscar Casares

Where We Come From

A stunning and timely novel about a Mexican-American family in Brownsville, Texas, who reluctantly becomes involved in smuggling immigrants into the United States. For Nina, after doing a small favor for her maid she eventually finds herself providing refuge for a young immigrant boy named Daniel, for whom traveling to America has meant trading one set of dangers for another. Separated from the violent human traffickers who brought him across the border, pursued by the authorities, Daniel must stay completely hidden. But the arrival Nina’s 12-year-old godson, Orly, threatens to put them all at risk of exposure. Tackling the crisis of U.S. immigration policy from a deeply human angle, Where We Come From explores through an intimate lens the ways that family history shapes us, how secrets can burden us, and how finding compassion and understanding for others can ultimately set us free.


Read the Reviews

The New York Times

“Cásares beautifully shows us that anyone can become part of a family and that where you come from is ‘nothing more than that’ — where you come from….Instead of being just a border novel or a novel about immigration writ large, it becomes more than that: It’s a novel about the great lengths humans will go to in order to be seen, to be touched, to be loved.” Javier Zamora, The New York Times Sunday Book Review

Texas Observer

“Cásares has written a powerful novel about the emotional traumas of migration, implicating all social classes…Where We Come From, is an instant classic deserving wide inclusion in college curriculums on race, migration and identity.” Anis Shivani, The Texas Observer

Lone Star Literary Life

“…Cásares doesn’t flinch from the ugliness, neither does he hit you over the head with it. Cásares is making a bid for our humanity, but he isn’t peddling fairy tales. Even so, the end(?), which is pitch-perfect, gave me goosebumps and left me nodding, with a small smile on my face.” Michelle Newby Lancaster, Lone Star Literary Life

New York Journal of Books

Cásares knows intimately how his characters look at the “world out and the world in,” shedding necessary light on a region that is too often defined by politician soundbites or ignored and forgotten altogether. What’s revealed are the countless, hidden, heart-wrenching stories that surround us every day. Cásares powerfully individualizes and humanizes their experience, showing their complex wants and desires, their fears, not just as immigrants, but as mothers and fathers and lovers. Maceo Montoya, New York Journal of Books

Houston Chronicle

“Where We Come From” is Cásares’ third book, following his short-story collection, “Brownsville,” and his first novel, “Amigoland.” The construction of the new book is remarkable for its efficiency. Cásares writes with a leanness evident in a short story, but the thematic content is grand and provocative. Andrew Dansby, Houston Chronicle

Kirkus Review

“Cásares returns to his hometown of Brownsville to deliver a potent novel about the complexities of immigration and the lies we tell ourselves and our families…The novel is told in a roaming third person that turns each character, no matter how seemingly one-dimensional or minor, into a powerful presence. Each voice in this chorus has something urgent to say. Helping us learn the truth about who we are individually and as a society is the ultimate goal of this novel. In some ways timely, this quiet, delicate book delivers a truly timeless emotional punch.” Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review!)

Library Journal

Cásares delivers this third book (after the story collection Brownsville and novel Amigoland), a timely and sensitive examination of U.S.–Mexico border issues as illuminated by the backstories of major and minor characters. Jennifer B. Stidham, Library Journal

Publishers Weekly

“The author of the collection Brownsville returns to that Texas border town with this thoughtful and quietly suspenseful novel. With understated grace and without sermonizing, Cásares brilliantly depicts the psychological complexity of living halfway in one place and halfway in another.” Publishers Weekly


Read the Early Praise…

Where We Come From is a beautiful and powerful novel. Timely, yes, but it transcends our contemporary era through its focus on family, risk, and loyalty. Oscar Cásares writes with uncanny insight and compassion. Everyone should read this book.”

— Chris Offutt, author of Country Dark

“Oscar Cásares leads us with skill and unsentimental affection into the homes, back yards, and hiding places of his characters. Some are on the move, while others are where they’ve been for hundreds of years. Questions of justice and mercy haunt the lives of every character. In Where We Come From, Oscar Cásares has written an absorbing novel that contains a fascinating world and, even better, gives a glimpse of what it takes to get along with strangers as we wish those strangers would get along with us.

— Laura Furman, author of The Mother Who Stayed and series editor of The O. Henry Prize Stories

Very few authors know the Texas border like Oscar Cásares – only when you write about home can you deliver laughter and sorrow in the same punch with such depth and sympathy. But Where We Come From is more than an enlightening tale about the multilayered emotional intricacies of life along the U.S.-Mexico line. It is a sweeping portrait of two kinless boys seeking for each other and the woman risking her all for them, the sons she'd have wanted for herself had life treated her gently. This novel – it grabbed me and hasn't let go of me

—Antonio Ruiz-Camacho, author of Barefoot Dogs

“I started reading this novel in the heart of winter and yet when I was done it appeared as if the sun was shining brightly and the birds were singing and the world was once again all bright and beautiful…Cásares has written the novel of our times.

— E.C.Osondu-Winner the Caine Prize for Africa

With his powers as raconteur and cuentista in full display, Cásares brings searing reportage to this deeply moving tale of interwoven lives on the Texas-Mexico border, and the greater human diaspora of which it is a part.  In a quietly prophetic way, he stories the border as a place of American becoming, where a new sense of our humanity is taking shape, that no wall or barrier can hold back.  As a corrective to the current morass of hellish representations of the border, this an urgent book of the American now.

— John Phillip Santos, author of Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation

Where We Come From seethes with the nearly silent desperation of people trying to survive in the shadows. This novel erupts like a slow-motion detonation, with a force that will ultimately lift you up and lay you flat. Oscar Cásares has written as true and timely a novel as I can imagine: a novel very much of our time, and timeless in its telling of human struggle and connection.”

— Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk