Genres: Civil Rights, Fiction, Occult & Supernatural, Political Science, Social Science
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What happens when rhetoric about immigrants escalates to an institutionalized population control system? The near-future, dark speculative novel INK opens as a biometric tattoo is approved for use to mark temporary workers, permanent residents and citizens with recent immigration history - collectively known as inks. Set in a fictional city and small, rural town in the U.S. during a 10-year span, the novel is told in four voices: a journalist; an ink who works in a local population control office; an artist strongly tied to a specific piece of land; and a teenager whose mother runs an inkatorium (a sanitarium-internment center opened in response to public health concerns about inks). The main characters grapple with ever-changing definitions of power, home and community; relationships that expand and complicate their lives; personal magicks they don't fully understand; and perceptions of "otherness" based on ethnicity, language, class and inclusion. In this world, the protagonists' magicks serve and fail, as do all other systems - government, gang, religious organization - until only two things alone stand: love and memory.
Oh. My. God. Just go get this book and read it.
What is scary about this book is that the dystopian scenario is so possible. It starts with anyone whose family has recently immigrated to the United States being required to have a tattoo. Black tattoo for temporary workers, green for permanent residents, and blue for citizens. Get that? Blue for citizens. It doesn’t matter if your family has been here for a while. Brown skinned people are still subject to legal restrictions. Over time the restrictions get more severe. People won’t rent to Inks (people with the tattoos). Then there are towns they can’t live in and jobs they can’t have. Vigilantes catch them and dump them outside U.S. borders. Next come the rumors of Inks having contagious diseases so they have GPS chips put in them if they go to the hospital so they can be tracked. Far fetched? I don’t think so.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Saturday offered up a creative solution to the problem of illegal immigration: track immigrants the same way FedEx tracks packages…
…”We need to have a system that tracks you from the moment you come in
and then when your time is up—whether it’s 3 months or 6 months or 9 months, 12 months, however long your visa is—then we go get you and tap you on the shoulder and say, ‘Excuse me, it’s time to go,'” Christie said.
From there they start being rounded up.
Ink tells the story of this world from the perspectives of several people.
- Mari survived an attack on her village in Guatemala as an infant. Her American father brought her to the U.S. She has a blue tattoo.
- Finn is a white American journalist who is covering the Ink story and gets involved in the resistance when he meets Mari.
- Meche is a wealthy Cuban American chemist with a blue tattoo who is using her family money to support the resistance and her knowledge to develop instaskin, a covering for the tattoos.
- Del is a white painter who becomes friends with some Inks on his day job. He is Finn’s brother-in-law and gets recruited to the resistance because he has a truck to smuggle people.
- Abby is a white teenage hacker whose mother runs an inkatorium. She volunteers there for community service hours and knows enough about the procedures to be able to help Mari and Meche escape. People she meets during the escape draw her deeper into the resistance movement.
The story also embraces magical realism. People in Mari’s village are twinned with a spirit animal. Hers is a Jaguar who is able to fight the battle on a spiritual level. Del has earth magic and is able to enchant his land so no one living on it can be found which makes it an ideal refuge for Inks.
This book is haunting. I stayed up late to finish it and then dreams inspired by it all night. I almost never give out 5 star reviews. To get one the book has to be one that is going to stick in my mind and influence the way I think. This book earned the 5 stars.
At the end of the book Mari visits the village where she was born. She tries to find out more about her family who were killed there. She was sheltered by the village priest who was killed later in the raid. She goes to see a library at a nearby church. The priest there talks to her about the aftermath of the Ink program in the United States.
“You could have had it removed, ” he continues, but gently, the way I’ve heard Father Tom address the kids he’s catechizing. “My understanding is that most people welcomed the new administration’s removal program as a way of getting past the misguided policies the tattoo represented, and the bitter history it marked.”
“But that’s the point, Father,” I say, taking care to close the album without damaging the brittle pages. “I know inks weren’t the first to endure this sort of thing, nor likely the last. But years from now, when somebody points to my photo in a dusty album in a library like this one, I want him or her to be able to say ‘I don’t remember the face or the name, but here’s the story of the tattoo'”
“It won’t be enough,” he says sadly.
“No. But it’s a start.”