Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Immigrant poet captures 'The Art of Exile'
89.3 KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez recently interviewed Los Angeles writer William Archila about his new book of poetry, "The Art of Exile." Archila arrived from El Salvador with his family in 1980 after fleeing the country's brutal civil war. From the interview:

"I think what affected me the most was seeing my own school mates dead on the street or my own teammates from a soccer team dead the next morning or neighbors that you had built a relationship for years then one day, just like that, gone," Archila said.

Since he left El Salvador, Archila’s felt like a stranger in a strange land. That’s why he titled his book “The Art of Exile.”

"When I came to this country I think I, I just found myself, going numb, I remember shutting myself down a lot and just going through the motions, ‘this is what I have to do,” I have to learn this language, I have to learn this culture, I have to succeed, I have to go on and continue, what we have here is better than what we have there," he said.

The theme of exile and alienation, of course, is one of the recurring themes in the lives of immigrants and their children. Archila's poetry captures it beautifully.

As his day job, Archila teaches high school English at Belmont High School, a majority Latino school west of downtown Los Angeles, where many students are living a similar experience.