This book tells the story of how families separated across borders write—and learn new ways of writing—in pursuit of both love and money. Over the last decade, global economic inequity has resulted in a rapid increase in labor migration. According to the UN, 244 million people currently live outside the countries of their birth. The untold drama behind these numbers is that labor migration often separates parents from children, brothers from sisters, lovers from each other.

Migration, undertaken in response to problems of the pocketbook, also poses problems for the heart. Based on in-depth field research and scores of moving interviews with transnational families in Latin America, Eastern Europe, and North America, Writing for Love and Money shows how families separated across borders are increasingly turning to writing to address these problems.



Writing for Love and Money: How Migration Drives Literacy Learning in Transnational Families

Oxford University Press, forthcoming

Literacy Learning in Immigrants' Homelands

Chapter One
What's New About Writing for Love and Money?  

Chapter Two
Writing for Love and Money on Three Continents

Chapter Three
Learning to Log On: From Post to Internet in Brazil

Chapter Four
Learning Languages: From Soviet Union to European Union in Latvia

Chapter Five
Teaching Homeland Family: Love and Money in the U.S.

Migration-Driven Literacy Learning in Uncertain Times


The Mothers



The Study


Writing for Love and Money describes the results of a unique tri-continental study that develops the concept of “writing remittances”—the literacy know-how and technologies, such as laptops, that migrants remit home to communicate with distant loved ones. The left-behind take up such remittances and invest their new literacy knowledge to improve local economic circumstances that, at a moment of rapid globalization, are shifting underneath their feet. Put simply, from the longing and loss accompanying familial separation comes literacy learning that the left-behind are using to respond to an unequal global order. Despite policy makers’ concerns about “brain drain,” the book argues that immigrants’ departures do not leave homelands wholly educationally hobbled. Instead, migration actually promotes literacy learning in transnational families as they write to reach the two life goals that globalization consistently threatens: economic solvency and intimacy. Writing for love and money, the book shows, are crucial—indeed inseparable—aspects of contemporary literacy in a rapidly globalizing moment.




The Communities



Jaú, Brazil

Jaú, is a mid-sized town in the interior of São Paulo, Brazil, a four-hour bus ride from the state capital. With a modest rate of outmigration, some wealthy residents send their children to study abroad in the U.S. or Canada; others attempt to gain higher education certificates abroad, because it is seen as less expensive, less competitive, and potentially of higher quality than accessible Brazilian education; and others engage in labor migration, traveling to Japan, Europe, or the U.S. to work.

While Brazil as a whole has been a notable sending country of immigrants since the 1980’s, and there are just under 2 million Brazilians living abroad (Margolis, 2013), many of Jaú’s residents do not migrate. Judging from the rate of automobile ownership (1 for every 2 residents), Jaú is riding the larger national trend of middle-class growth (Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística, 2013). 

What highlights migration-driven literacy practices in Jaú, then, is not that everyone leaves, but that most tend to stay. 

Felipe, for example, whose brother migrated to the U.S., grew up in Jaú, where both his parents were born. He married his high school sweetheart, then moved into a house across the street from her parents, who had built the house there for that purpose. (His wife’s brother lives next door in an identical house with his family). Felipe visits his father daily at lunchtime, and weekend activities often include extended family gatherings, where his brother is missed. 

Residents think of Jaú as quiet, friendly, safe, a town securely ensconced in Brazil’s interior heartland—a collective belief that makes the absence of one member of the community noteworthy. 



Daugavpils, Latvia

Daugavpils, Latvia is is the second largest town in the former Soviet and newly minted European Union state, Latvia. Like Jau, it is nestled in the interior of its state and is four-hour bus ride away from the capital. Unlike Jau, however, Daugavpils is facing mass population loss due to migration.

During the recent global recession, Latvia’s economy floundered and its unemployment rate rose above 20%. It faced what Latvian economist Hazans has called a “demographic disaster.” During 2009-2010 alone, Latvia lost between 40,000 and 80,000 inhabitants to emigration (Hazans, 2011), contributing to its net migration rate of -4 per 1,000 (Population Reference Bureau, 2012). 

Latvia, with a population of 2 million, is weathering one of the highest rates of population loss due to migration in the world—higher than that of Mexico (-3) and comparable to many places with longstanding conflict (Population Reference Bureau, 2012). Both the popular press and Latvia’s prime minister have referred to this mass outmigration as “brain drain,” pointing to children being raised by grandparents, schools closing, and the iconic tragedy of Latvian civil engineers leaving Latvia to pick strawberries in England. 

It seems nearly everyone has a family member living or working abroad. These departures are difficult to bear, but as one participant said of his two children who left for Germany: "They have no future here." Or as the running joke goes, "The last one to leave the country should turn out the lights in the airport." Daugavpils has clearly lost valuable knowledge, skills, and experiences as educated citizens emigrate. Yet in the process of brain drain, more informal kinds of literacy learning are quietly underway


[1] Social remittances are “Local-level, migration driven forms of cultural diffusion” (Levitt, 1998, p. 926; Levitt and Lamba-Nieves, 2011).


Madison, Wisconsin

Madison is an educationally and technologically saturated city. According to the 2012 American Community Survey, a full 94% have completed high school and 64% have completed a BA, making it an ideal site for tracking how literacy practices, languages, and technologies are taken up and sent back among the 19% of Madison’s population that is foreign born. The state as a whole is deeply educationally stratified along racial divides. How might such educational stratification shape the way migrants remit (or don’t) an educational good, literacy, to their families in homelands?

Working with intergenerational families of immigrants from Mexico and Ukraine, focus on just two families with whom I spent a great deal of time: three generations of immigrants from rural Mexico and three generations of refugees from urban Ukraine, the study finds that in remitting literacy to those they loved, ordinary migrants reinforced their own beliefs in its promise for emotional connection and upward social mobility. In other words, as literacy circulated globally, its value accrued.


Research Team


Calley Marotta

PhD Student, Composition & Rhetoric
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Academic Webpage

Calley Marotta is a composition teacher and English graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is currently the Assistant Director of the Writing Fellows Program. Her dissertation examines the literacy practices of manual laborers.


Madina Djuraeva

PhD Candidate, Curriculum & Instruction
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Academic Webpage

Raised as trilingual in multilingual Bukhara, Uzbekistan, Madina Djuraeva is currently writing her dissertation proposal in the World Language Education Area in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her dissertation work is on multilingual practices and the construction of youth identity in Kazakhstan. She is especially interested in how broader socio-economic and cultural-historic events situate a multilingual subject. Therefore, along with historical and socio-cultural lenses, she employs the policy lens by looking at state language policy and reform. She has presented at various conferences, such as AAAL 2014, MEHAT 2013, and CESS 2013, where she presented papers about multilingualism and identity, the internationalization of language education, and language policy in higher education. She is currently affiliated with the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, where she works as a Project Assistant for the World Instructional Design and Assessment Consortium, which supports academic language development and academic achievement for linguistically diverse students through high-quality standards, assessments, research, and professional development for educators. 


Margaret Bertucci Hamper

PhD Candidate, Composition & Rhetoric
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Academic Webpage

Margaret Bertucci Hamper is a PhD candidate in Composition and Rhetoric at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Coordinator of The University of Wisconsin-Madison's Online Writing Center. Before this, she served as the Assistant Director of UW-Madison's English 201 program and as Writing Program Administrator at Harrington College of Design. She is proud to have received her M.A. in English at Southern Illinois University and her B.A. in English at Eastern Illinois University. Her most recent work is published in the collection Reimagining School Reform and Innovation. Her dissertation, the culmination of archival research, classroom ethnography to understand students’ everyday experiences, literacy history interviews with nine students to investigate students’ literate and material lives, explores how students persist (or don’t) in their educational goals. (She also did the web design for this lovely website, katevieira.com)


This Work Has Been Generously Funded By: 

A Spencer/National Academy of Education Postdoctoral Fellowship

A Spencer Foundation Grant


Latin American and Caribbean Studies/U.S. Dept of Ed Research Travel Grant
University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign


University of Wisconsin Research Competition 
University of Wisconsin, Madison


Vilas Associates Award
University of Wisconsin, Madison