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The Quanza was a Portuguese steamship filled with Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Due to improper visas, 86 of its passengers were denied entry to Vera Cruz, Mexico, and faced deportation back to their homelands and certain death. However, when the Quanza laid over in Hampton Roads, Virginia, to refuel, it was held in port, and the fate of its refugees became the subject of an intense political and legal battle.
With this historical incident as background, The Border of Truth imagines a young Belgian refugee, "the poet" Itzak Lejdel, among the ill-fated passengers of the Quanza. It is Itzak who, at the helm of his typewriter, begins a letter-writing campaign to Eleanor Roosevelt, importuning her intercession on their behalf. Years later in New York, a 41-year-old single woman prepares to adopt a war baby. When her adoption counselor urges her to share her family history, she realizes how little she knows of her own father's journey to the United States, and determines to find out.
As the two narratives entwine, Itzak's letters reveal his life and loves, his fears and his doubts, as he traces his passage to hope. An exquisitely crafted novel, The Border of Truth is the story of a son's journey to freedom and of a daughter's courage to question the past. (Summer 2007 Selection)