Class of 2026: Enrique's Journey

At age 16, Enrique begins the long, difficult, and perilous journey from Honduras to the United States to reunite with his mother. In reading his story together, we focus on universal themes of struggle, resilience, and refuge, as well as the complex issues surrounding immigration.

« Back home Learn more »

About the Book

Enrique is only 5 years old when his mother, Lourdes, leaves him and his sister, Belky, behind in Honduras so that she can go work in America. Lourdes promises only to stay until she can send for her children or return with enough money to support them, but each year setbacks prevent her from being with her children again. Enrique desperately misses his mother and believes that only she can understand and support him. After difficult stays with other relatives, Enrique sets out to find his mother. He is 16 years old when he makes the first of seven failed attempts to get through Mexico in the hopes of crossing the border into the United States. Along the way, he encounters gangs and bandits, but learns new survival skills that help him when he successfully crosses the border on his eighth try. Enrique is reunited with his mother in North Carolina, but the years apart have been tough. How Enrique envisions his mother and the reality he finds are very different.


An Epilogue recounts many interviews that the author conducted with Enrique, Lourdes and their family in Honduras since Enrique’s Journey was initially published in 2006. It reveals Enrique’s battle with drug addiction, his fractured relationship with his mother, and his struggles to be a husband and father in an environment that is often hostile to illegal immigrants. In many ways, Enrique is emblematic of many of his countrymen who came to the United States illegally. Finally, the epilogue poses questions and offers solutions to address the socio-economic issues raised by Enrique’s story.


More than 60 universities, 50 high schools, and 10 cities have selected Enrique’s Journey as a common or one-city read.” (source: Penguin Random House: “Enrique’s Journey Teacher’s Guide”)

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I keep my book?

  • Unfortunately, no. All One Book, One Helix books belong to Helix Charter High School. You will be required to return your book on the designated return day.

Can I write in my book?

  • No, you may not. Because these books belong to Helix and we would like to use them again, please do not write in your book. If you want to take notes, highlight quotes, or use other active reading strategies, please use sticky notes, index cards, or other non-permanent devices to do so.

Why was this book chosen?

  • We chose Enrique's Journey as the as the Summer 2022 selection because of its themes of resilience and refuge, which are motifs all freshmen will study in English, Social Studies, and Helix First classes. Based on the author’s Pulitzer Prize winning series in the Los Angeles Times, the adult version of the book was the first One Book, One San Diego selection in 2007. The Young Adult version, which our students will read, was published in 2014.

Will I be graded on Enrique's Journey?

  • Yes. Freshmen classes will include assignments, quizzes, and tasks for students to complete, with the assumption that all students have read Enrique’s Journey These tasks will start the first day of school with a short quiz in your Helix First class. Your Summer Assignment will be due on Monday, August 18th.

In which classes will I be expected to show my understanding of Enrique's Journey?

  • Helix First, Introduction to Social Studies, AP Human Geography, and Freshman English have all worked together to create curriculum and assignments specific to the One Book, One Helix text.

I am confused about an assignment or the book itself. Where can I ask questions?

Can I read the book online or find my own copy?

  • Of course you can! We encourage all students and parents to read the book in any form or medium they are comfortable with. Please know that you are still responsible for the hard copy the school has loaned you, and will be expected to return it in good condition.

What if I have lost my copy of the Enrique's Journey book?

  • Please contact the school librarian, Christina Potter ( in the case of a missing or lost book.

Where can I find more about Enrique and his Family? 

  • There are additional resources here

I want to talk to others about Enrique's story. Will there be an opportunity to share my opinions and perspective?

  • There will be multiple opportunities throughout the year to discuss the specific and general themes addressed in Enrique’s Journey. Please listen for announcements about these opportunities.

Checks for Understanding

The following questions are to help you think about some of the central ideas & questions raised in the book. While you do not have to formally respond to these questions, you might find them helpful “guides” as you read through the text. And, some of these questions are ones that will be addressed in your classes.

1. Enrique’s Journey is a work of nonfiction. What sparked the idea for the book? One of the goals of any type of research is to deepen an understanding of the issue. How does Nazario set out to accomplish this goal? 

2. What does the United States offer Latin American immigrants that they cannot get in their own countries? Contrast the images of the United States that Lourdes and Enrique see on television versus what each finds in the United States.

3. Compare and contrast Enrique and Belky’s lives after their mother leaves. What negative habits does Enrique develop in his mother’s absence? How is his father partly responsible?

4. Describe the guilt that Lourdes feels when she leaves her children. Why does she kiss Belky good-bye, but find it too hard to face Enrique? How does she attempt to rectify her guilt when she gets to the states?

5. Cite evidence that Aunt Rosa Amalia is correct that the separation from their mother has caused Enrique and Belky deep emotional wounds. How do these problems continue to haunt Enrique after he is reunited with his mother?

6. What do the migrants mean when they say of Chiapas, “Now we face the beast” (p. 61)? What is the “beast”? How does Enrique endure his encounter with the “beast”? Debate whether Enrique is surprised by the brutal attacks on migrants.

7. Describe the gangs aboard the trains. What is Enrique’s attitude toward the gangs? How is his view of El Brujo different from other gang members? Why does their friendship end?

8. Latino immigrants come to the United States with hope for a better life. Why is their hope fragile? How do Padre Leo and Olga work to restore dignity to migrants, and give them hope? How do the “coyotes” take advantage of the migrants’ hopes and dreams.

9. What is the significance of the statue of Jesus that Enrique encounters? How does his journey change after this encounter?

10. Describe Enrique’s relationship with María Isabel. Why does she find it difficult to forget Enrique despite his flaws? How does she call upon her religion to get through her darkest moments with Enrique? What is Enrique’s reaction when he finds that he has a daughter? What conflicts arise between María Isabel and Enrique’s family?

11. What is Enrique’s relationship with Diana, his half-sister? How is her life more stable than his? 

12. How does Enrique become the “most famous undocumented immigrant in America”? How might his story be a lesson about the perils of drug use and addiction? What chance do his children have for a better life?

13.  What motivates Enrique to stay in the United States? What things make him wish to return to Honduras?

14. Enrique continues his struggle with drug addiction, and suffers from depression. How does he blame his mother for his troubles? Explain what María Isabel learns from Lourdes about dealing with Enrique. Discuss why Lourdes tells María Isabel, “We have to cut him loose” (p. 257) 

15. The purpose of an Epilogue in a book is to add interesting developments since the book was written. What new information has Nazario revealed about Enrique and his family? 

(source: Penguin Random House: “Enrique’s Journey Teacher’s Guide”)

Summer Assignment

Creative Response to Enrique’s Journey. Due Monday, August 18th in your Helix First class.

Choose an activity from the options below. The guidelines for each activity are intentionally “loose” in order to encourage creativity and individual expression. While we expect that you will challenge yourself and do your best work, we’re less concerned with page length, word count, and formatting, and more interested in a thoughtful, reflective response to the book.

Use your imagination. Be creative. And allow the power of Enrique's story to inspire you.

Your responses may be typed or handwritten.

Every freshman is expected to complete ONE activity from the list below:


Using what you’ve learned from the book, and your imagination, write several journal entries from the perspective of one of the book’s characters. Each entry should be a reflection on an event / issue that occurred, that day, in the character’s life. Be sure to include the name of the character from whose perspective you’ve chosen to write.


Imagine a judge orders Enrique to be deported. Write a newspaper article or editorial for a newspaper that takes Enrique’s side to stay in America or the judge’s decision to deport him. Support your opinion usings facts from the book.


Choose an important scene, or setting, from the story and create a model of that scene using clay, a shoebox, balsa wood, or other materials of your choice.


Write a letter to Enrique, the author, Enrique’s mother, or a politician that includes the following:

Your reaction to her story / what her story means to you

What you felt was the most powerful message in her book and why

Questions you’d like to ask about the story or issues revolving around the story


Create your own graphic novel / comic book adaptation of Enrique’s Journey. Choose the major events of the book and create an “abridged” graphic novel version, OR choose a major scene / event and illustrate it in graphic novel format.


Create a “book trailer” (similar to a movie trailer) that promotes the book Enrique’s Journey. Use live actors, puppets, stop-motion, or a “slide show” format...or use a free tool like PowToons or GoAnimate to create an animated trailer. Upload your finished video to YouTube.


Create a timeline outlining major events of the book and their significance. The timeline should have at LEAST 10 events and include photos, drawings, clipart, or other graphics that help illustrate the events you choose to include.


Create a drawing, painting, or poster inspired by the book. This could be a scene from the book, a thematic response, or something else that sparks your creativity.


If appropriate, reflect on your own experiences as an immigrant, or talk to your family members to find out more about when, why, and how your family came to the U.S. Write a brief history of your family’s journey, reflecting on the following questions:

1) Where did your family originate?

2) When did you or your descendents come to the United States?

3) How and why did your family come to this country?

4) What were some of the challenges you / your family members faced?


Make and illustrate a brochure to aid newcomers to your community (this can be created on a computer or paper). Include information such as:

1) where to go for health care

2) how to register children for school

3) where to find free activities for children

4) where to find affordable places to shop for food, children’s clothing, toys, etc.

5) how to find legal aid

6) where to find religious organizations that conduct services in other languages

Remember that many immigrants don’t speak English. You may wish to use symbols, images, and very few words to describe the information in the brochure.


Create a project of your choice. Please email or for approval before you start your idea.

Example projects:


View the rubric on Google Docs

Questions about the summer assignment? Please contact:


Additional Resources

We have listed links to videos, articles, and blogs to help you better understand the book.

You will also find volunteer opportunities to help our own community.

Crisis Support

While we are reading to focus on universal themes and complex issues, we are highly aware that each reader comes to this story with their own very personal histories. If your experience has included some of the violence depicted in this story, you may find some sections of this book to be particularly difficult to read. If you encounter a section that triggers some past experiences or memories, know that you are not alone. Here are some ideas to help you through.

  1. Breathe. Remember that you are safe.  Yes, you breathe all the time, but let’s slow it down for a few minutes.  Here are some recordings you can use:
  2. If you find that you can’t continue reading, take a break.
    1. Go for a walk with a friend, talk with a trusted adult, work on a different task.  
  3. If you find that this is continuing to bring up difficult and painful memories, here are some places to get support this summer:
    1. Talk with a trusted adult.
    2. Call the Youth Crisis Line (24/7) 1-800-843-5200 or the SD Access and Crisis Line (888) 724-7240 or (live chat is also available)
    3. Check with your doctor or health insurance provider for referrals to local therapists.
    4. If you already have had a therapist or counselor in the past, reconnect with them if that feels right.
  4. If you are already actively experiencing mental health symptoms related to trauma prior to starting this book, and this book is triggering your symptoms, please continue to see your mental health provider.

Once you are here at Helix, if you need support regarding personal/social issues or mental health please visit us at the Wellness Center. We are able to meet with you to individually and in groups, and have access to resources to help with the variety of challenges our students and families face. We have walked with hundreds of students on their journeys towards wellness and success and we are here for you, too. All are welcome.