“Here, at long last, is a nonfiction account of our country’s immigration drama written with the intelligence, passion, and sweep of a great novel.”




Aida Cover.jpg

*** Shortlisted for the Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize***

***Earphones Award winner for best audio books of 2019***


***Shortlisted for the Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize***

***Earphones Award winner for best audio books of 2019***

“Searing…A rich, novelistic tale of a young woman whose life spans both sides of the United States-Mexican border . . . [Aida's] a radiantly optimistic character in a relentlessly bleak, unlucky world...."The Death and Life of Aida Hernandez is an illuminating work of literature, not an ideological tract.” Michelle Goldberg, The New York Times Book Review

“Bobrow-Strain … tells the dramatic true tale of a woman he calls Aida Hernandez with extraordinary clarity and power . . . In this caring and unforgettable borderland saga, Bobrow-Strain reveals the profound personal toll of the immigration crisis.” Donna Seaman, Booklist Starred Review

“[Bobrow-Strain] brightly illuminate[s] immigration realities by focusing on the struggles of one young woman . . .  [A] powerful saga . . . This potent, important work…adds much to the continuing immigration debate.” Kirkus Starred Review

“Bobrow-Strain writes like a journalist and sociologist, with clear information on history and policy, along with plenty of narrative tension. Hernandez is not a perfect immigrant (she has a criminal record), but she’s a real one, and her story provides insight into how the larger immigration machine actually works.” Adriana E. Ramirez, Los Angeles Times

A beautiful introduction to anyone interested in the subject of immigration” San Diego City Beat

“Aida’s story—of border flight, immigration court, for-profit detention, and family separation—is required reading in the age of Trump.” Mother Jones

“The Death and Life of Aida Hernandez is no fairy tale. It’s not an uplifting story of plucky migrants and isn’t the handbook for congressional immigration-law reform efforts. That is precisely why it is such a powerful testament to migrants that deserves a more central role in immigration law debates." César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, NACLA

“This is a riveting and distressing account of one woman’s immigration nightmare, and a well-researched argument against the status quo in border security.” Publishers Weekly

“One of the beauties of the narrative is that while this is indeed a case study of the fallout of enforcing an immoral immigration policy put into action during during the Obama administration, Hernandez is never reduced to a lecture prop. She is the protean American, in search of herself, re-inventing as she must. She’s at times a chola, a stoner, a goth. She’s straight and she’s gay. She’s Mexican, American, mother, and daughter. She’s nearly broken by PTSD; she doesn’t quit … What makes The Death and Life of Aida Hernandez exceptional and powerful is that by getting us to care about Hernandez, and by not relying on a dishonest, feel-good ending, the book also guides us, whether intentionally or not, to ask if a story about the undocumented living along the border is also a story about the value we place on the well-being and the futures of Mexican Americans in general.” Oscar Villalon, LitHub

“Bobrow-Strain … seamlessly blend[s] the intimate details of memoir into the historical and political context of U.S. immigration policies…[The Death and Life of Aida Hernandez] is a sharp portrait of a country where equality is designed only for those deemed worthy.” BookPage

“A powerful story.” The Denver Post

“A heart-wrenching story that demonstrates the human toll resulting from our nation's lousy immigration policies.” Tucson Weekly


What happens when an undocumented teen mother takes on the immigration system?

When Aida Hernandez was born in 1987 in Agua Prieta, Mexico, the nearby U.S. border was little more than a worn-down fence. Eight years later, Aida’s mother took her and her siblings to live in Douglas, Arizona. By then, the border had become one of the most heavily policed sites in America.

Undocumented, Aida fought to make her way. She learned English, watched Friends, and, after having a baby at sixteen, dreamed of teaching dance and moving with her son to New York City. But life had other plans. Following a misstep that led to her deportation, Aida found herself in a Mexican city marked by violence, in a country that was not hers. To get back to the United States and reunite with her son, she embarked on a harrowing journey. The daughter of a rebel hero from the mountains of Chihuahua, Aida has a genius for survival―but returning to the United States was just the beginning of her quest.

Taking us into detention centers, immigration courts, and the inner lives of Aida and other daring characters, The Death and Life of Aida Hernandez reveals the human consequences of militarizing what was once a more forgiving border. With emotional force and narrative suspense, Aaron Bobrow-Strain brings us into the heart of a violently unequal America. He also shows us that the heroes of our current immigration wars are less likely to be perfect paragons of virtue than complex, flawed human beings who deserve justice and empathy all the same.


Aaron Bobrow-Strain

Is a professor of Politics at Whitman College, where he teaches courses on food, immigration, and the U.S.-Mexico border. He is the author of White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf and Intimate Enemies: Landowners, Power, and Violence in Chiapas. In the 1990s, he worked on the U.S.-Mexico border as an educator and activist. He is a founding member of the Walla Walla Immigrant Rights Coalition.

Along with academic journals in the U.S. and Mexico, his writing on has appeared in The BelieverThe Chronicle of Higher Education Review, SalonGastronomica, and The Huffington Post.

He has an MA in Latin American Studies from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in Geography from the University of California, Berkeley. He’s received grants and fellowships from the National Science Foundation and Social Science Research Council and won teaching prizes from UC Berkeley and Whitman College.


learn more AND TAKE ACTION


Coming Soon: An essay on creating a just immigration system.

news sources

A collection of websites that gather reliable news, intelligent analysis, and original research on the border and U.S. immigration system.


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upcoming public appearances

(Confirmed events; others are in progress; stay tuned for more details)

  • The Decatur Book Festival - Decatur GA - Aug 31, 2019

  • University of Arizona - Tucson AZ - Sep 13, 2019

  • Frontera de Cristo - Agua Prieta SON - Sep 17

  • Bisbee Public Library - Bisbee AZ - Sep 18, 2019

  • Douglas Public Library - Douglas AZ - Sep 18, 2019

  • Antigone Books - Tucson AZ - Sep 20, 2019

  • University of Wisconsin - Madison WI - Oct 1, 2019

  • Building Our Legacy: Latino Professional Association Conference - Madison WI - Oct 1, 2019

  • The Wisconsin Book Festival - Madison WI - Oct 2, 2019

  • The Eastside Freedom Library - St. Paul MN - Oct 5, 2019

  • University of Denver, Sturm College of Law - Denver CO - Oct 16, 2019

  • University of Colorado - Boulder CO - October 18, 2019

  • National Orientation Directors Association - Houston TX - Oct 21, 2019

  • King County Library System - Burien WA - Nov 3, 2019

  • Cornell University - Ithaca NY - Nov 13, 2019

  • Binghamton University - Binghamton NY - Nov 14, 2019

  • Miami International Book Festival - Miami FL - Nov 22, 2019

  • Enoch Pratt Free Library - Baltimore MD - Dec 10, 2019

  • DePaul University - Chicago IL - Jan 15, 2020

  • University of Victoria - Victoria BC - Jan 23 & 24, 2020

  • Walla Walla Public Library - Walla Walla WA - Feb 6, 2020

  • Colorado College - Colorado Springs - Feb 26, 2020

  • Tucson Festival of Books - Tucson AZ - March 14 & 15, 2020

  • Walla Walla University - Walla Walla WA - March 31, 2020

  • University of California, Berkeley - Berkeley CA - April 22, 2020


Contact the Author:


For media inquiries, please contact:

Sarita Varma (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)


For speaking events and rights queries, please contact:

Matt McGowan (Francis Goldin Literary Agency)