PAYMENT TO THE DESERT is a 45,000-word literary middle grade novel.
“In Yasaki’s tale of a family risking everything to survive, Amado is an 11-year-old boy who must cross the desert from Mexico to the United States. Amado’s voice is true and well rendered: that of a young, confused child who only wants to be safe and happy with his family. The story unfolds at a steady pace, full of suspense and emotion, and lands on an ending that is bittersweet and believable.”
– The BookLife Prize in Fiction
by Publishers Weekly
Third Place, Willamette Writers’ 2015 Kay Snow YA and Middle Grade Fiction Competition – Roland Smith Award
Honorable Mention, League of Utah Writers’ 2015 Creative Writing Contest, First Chapter-YA Category
Finalist, Pacific Northwest Writers Association’s 2015 Literary Contest, Middle Grade Category
Honorable Mention, RateYourStory.blogspot.com 2015 Writing Contest, Novel Category
Finalist, 2013 Katherine Paterson Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing, Picture Book Category, under the title TO CROSS.
Eleven-year-old Amado’s dream is coming true. After five years apart, his mamá has returned to Mexico and will take him back to Papá in the United States so they can live as a family together. Initially, Mamá tells Amado they will take a bus to the U.S. He soon uncovers her lie and she admits they must walk through the desert to “the other side.” Although hurt by her deceit, Amado knows he is strong and brave enough to do anything to reach Papá.
At the border, Mamá holds her own in an argument with the coyote and Amado’s confidence in her soars. He carries his baby brother, his little sister’s backpack—anything to help. But walking through the Arizona desert is more grueling than he had ever imagined. For three days, he battles heat, thirst, scorpions and rattlesnakes, and evades menacing men in their group and the U.S. Border Patrol. The coyote’s constant threats to leave them behind stab worse than cactus needles, and additional betrayals by Mamá feed on Amado’s exhaustion. Stress begins to take its toll, and he accidently jeopardizes both his brother’s and sister’s lives while running from la migra. The guilt consumes any confidence he had left. Amado clings to Papá as his last hope, but how will they be a family if the desert crossing has already torn them apart?