Tag Archives: immigration

How to Be an American by Silvia Hildago

How to Be an American: A Field Guide to Citizenship by Silvia Hildago. September 25, 2018. Harry N. Abrams, 128 p. ISBN: 9781419730757.  Int Lvl: YA.

The current political climate has left many of us wondering how our government actually operates. Sure, we learned about it in school, but if put to the test, how many of us can correctly explain the branches of government? The history of politics? The differences and connections between local government and federal government? Enter How to Be an American.

While author and illustrator Silvia Hidalgo was studying for her citizenship test, she quickly found that the materials provided by the government were lacking. In order to more easily absorb the information, Hidalgo started her own illustrated reference to civics facts and American history essentials. She’s collected her findings in How to Be an American, a freshly designed and illustrated two-color guide to all things America.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Author Video

About the Author

Born in Costa Rica, Silvia Hidalgo moved to the United States in 1998. Currently an artist as well as a freelance graphic designer and illustrator, she has worked for corporations such as SRAM and Motorola. She lives in Chicago.

Teacher Resources

US Citizenship and Immigration Services Website

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The Making of a Dream by Laura Wides-Muñoz

The Making of a Dream: How a Group of Young Undocumented Immigrants Helped Change What It Means To Be American by Laura Wides-Muñoz. January 30, 2018. Harper, 384 p. ISBN: 9780062560124.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

A journalist chronicles the next chapter in civil rights—the story of a movement and a nation, witnessed through the poignant and inspiring experiences of five young undocumented activists who are transforming society’s attitudes toward one of the most contentious political matters roiling America today: immigration.

They are called the DREAMers: young people who were brought, or sent, to the United States as children and who have lived for years in America without legal status. Growing up, they often worked hard in school, planned for college, only to learn they were, in the eyes of the United States government and many citizens, “illegal aliens.”

Determined to take fate into their own hands, a group of these young undocumented immigrants risked their safety to “come out” about their status—sparking a transformative movement, engineering a seismic shift in public opinion on immigration, and inspiring other social movements across the country. Their quest for permanent legal protection under the so-called “Dream Act,” stalled. But in 2012, the Obama administration issued a landmark, new immigration policy: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which has since protected more than half a million young immigrants from deportation even as efforts to install more expansive protections remain elusive.

The Making of a Dream begins at the turn of the millennium, with the first of a series of “Dream Act” proposals; follows the efforts of policy makers, activists, and undocumented immigrants themselves, and concludes with the 2016 presidential election and the first months of the Trump presidency. The immigrants’ coming of age stories intersect with the watershed political and economic events of the last two decades: 9/11, the recession, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Obama presidency, and the rebirth of the anti-immigrant right.

In telling their story, Laura Wides-Muñoz forces us to rethink our definition of what it means to be American.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Discrimination, Strong sexual themes, Alcohol, Anti-gay attitudes and epithets

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 11))
Award-winning journalist Wides-Muñoz’s essential primer on the DREAM Act exposes the toll the U.S.’s broken immigration system takes on real people. As this legislation remains in hostage to political paralysis on Capitol Hill, the lives of undocumented young people brought to the U.S. as children, the so-called DREAMers, are left suspended in excruciating limbo. Wides-Muñoz weaves the experiences and life stories of a handful of these exceptional young people into her informative account of the tortuously frustrating and heartbreaking attempts at achieving immigration reform in the twenty-first century. Besides the DREAMers and their families, her well-developed cast of characters includes key legislators, young immigration activists, advocates, and organizations. Wides-Muñoz’s sometimes-wonky prose can intermittently belie the passionate story she tells, yet this is a valuable and detailed look at lawmaking and policy that affect people and communities across the nation and around the world as well as portraits of heroic youth willing to put their own status in jeopardy to advocate for fair treatment, not only for themselves and their families but for all immigrants.

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2018)
An eye-opening exploration of the DREAM Act and those who have tried to find safe harbor in the United States under its aegis.Relating her often poignant narrative through tales of aspiring citizens such as a Bolivian immigrant who arrived as a child, remained illegally, and has since become a leading activist in immigration-related causes, Wides-Muñoz, the vice president for special projects and editorial strategy at Fusion TV, examines changes in legislation and the national mood alike over the last 20 years. The DREAM Act, she writes, was the outgrowth of a George W. Bush–era series of legislative efforts to make it more difficult for so-called illegal aliens to find a path to legal permanent residence and even citizenship. The “Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act,” born of an unlikely alliance between Sens. Dick Durbin and Orrin Hatch, recognized that children brought to this country illegally were not willful criminals and therefore not deserving of punishments such as being denied educational opportunities. The story is full of ironies: the postal worker who discovered anthrax in the mail had long overstayed a tourist visa, while “the second US casualty in the [Iraq] war turned out to be a young man from Guatemala who had crossed the California border illegally.” After 9/11, writes Wides-Muñoz, efforts to improve the status of DREAMers were put on the back burner. During the Obama administration, those efforts were halfhearted enough that Hispanic voters “sat out the 2010 election in greater numbers than white or black voters,” to disastrous results for the Democrats in the face of the tea party onslaught that would go on to put Donald Trump, an avowed opponent of the act and of immigration, in the White House. Against that new tide of anti-immigrant sentiment, the book concludes, the DREAM Act may be doomed despite efforts in the Senate to initiate meaningful immigration reform. A well-crafted, timely contribution to the immigration debate

About the Author

Laura Wides-Muñoz is the author of The Making of a Dream: How a Group of Young Undocumented Immigrants Helped Change What It Means to be American. The book is based on more than a decade of reporting on immigration, much of it done while Laura was a staff writer for the Associated Press. Previously, she served as Vice President for Special Projects & Editorial Strategy at Univision’s English-language Fusion Network, and as a senior story editor for the network’s TV and digital investigative teams. Laura has reported from Cuba and throughout Central America and has written for the Miami Herald, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, among other outlets. She has won the Associated Press Managing Editors Award and multiple Society of Professional Journalists awards. The Making of a Dream is her first published book. She conceived of the project during a 2013 Harvard University Nieman Foundation for Journalism fellowship.

She lives in Washington, D.C. with her family. Her website is www.laurawidesmunoz.com

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Americanized by Sara Saedi

Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card by Sara Saedi. February 6, 2018. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 288 p. ISBN: 9781524717803.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1030.

The hilarious, poignant, and true story of one teens’s experience growing up in America as an undocumented immigrant from the Middle East, perfect for fans of Mindy Kaling and Lena Dunham’s books.

At thirteen, bright-eyed, straight-A student Sara Saedi uncovered a terrible family secret: she was breaking the law simply by living in the United States. Only two years old when her parents fled Iran, she didn’t learn of her undocumented status until her older sister wanted to apply for an after-school job, but couldn’t because she didn’t have a Social Security number.
Fear of deportation kept Sara up at night, but it didn’t keep her from being a teenager. She desperately wanted a green card, along with clear skin, her own car, and a boyfriend.
Americanized follows Sara’s progress toward getting her green card, but that’s only a portion of her experiences as an Iranian-“American” teenager. From discovering that her parents secretly divorced to facilitate her mother’s green card application to learning how to tame her unibrow, Sara pivots gracefully from the terrifying prospect that she might be kicked out of the country at any time to the almost-as-terrifying possibility that she might be the only one of her friends without a date to the prom. This moving, often hilarious story is for anyone who has ever shared either fear.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Drugs, Underage drinking, Smoking, Clinical discussion, Clinical discussions of sex and menstruation

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Grades 9-12. Imagine finding out when you’re almost 13 that you’re an undocumented immigrant and can be deported from the U.S. at any time. This is just one of the secrets that Saedi, now 37, reveals in this often funny and deeply moving memoir based on entries from her teenage diary. Born in 1980 in Iran during the Iranian Revolution, Sara fled to the U.S. with her family when she was two. She humorously relates stories of angst over her high-school crush, confusion over her birth date, idolization of her “perfect” older sister, annoyance at being the surrogate mother of her younger U.S.–born brother, zit and “skin-shaming” issues, hatred of her large Iranian nose, embarrassment over her unibrow, obsession with acting, experimentation with smoking and alcohol, prom date dilemmas, and incidents from her parents’ and grandparents’ difficult lives. Black-and-white photos are interspersed with intriguing chapter titles (“Sporting the Frida Kahlo,” “I Am the Product of Incest”), while, at the same time, the narrative offers a brief look at the history of Iran (pronounced E-ron, she emphasizes, not I-ran, as many Americans say). Her encouraging advice for undocumented immigrants is invaluable, honest, and heartfelt. This irresistible and timely memoir is hard to put down.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 1, 2017)
Saedi recounts her teen years growing up and coming of age in 1990s California while fearing deportation for herself and her undocumented family. Born in Iran, Saedi came to the United States at 2 with her secular family as “illegal aliens” fleeing the Iraq-Iran War. In Chapter 1 and with humor, candor, and accessibility, she breaks down historical and geopolitical facts about Iran and her family’s reason for leaving their home; in doing so, she debunks myths about Iran, its people, and Tehran—a city that looked less like Agrabah than New York City. Facing topics such as religion and tensions in the Middle East, handled with delicacy, Saedi asserts a fearless voice for Gen Xers and millennials. Saedi wields satire and hyperbole as she balances compelling points about world leaders and politicians with nostalgic references to Nancy Reagan’s “Just say no to drugs” campaign, celebrities, and music icons. Iranian women and families are depicted in all ways: religious, secular, strict, trusting, educated, independent, passionate, traditional, nontraditional. Zits, teenage angst, boy drama, drugs, alcohol, and sex are handled with humanity. No topic is off limits it seems, as she takes on illegal immigration protocols that bleed into today’s turbulent times, with mentions of DACA and the “Muslim ban.” Interspersed throughout are photographs, FAQs, and excerpts from the author’s diary from her teen years. With gumption, Saedi draws from her American-ness and Iranian-ness for a successful depiction of immigrant life in the U.S.: a must-read. (Memoir. 14-18)

About the Author

Sara Saedi was born in Tehran, Iran smack-dab in the middle of a war and an Islamic Revolution. She received a B.A. in Film and Mass Communications from the University of California, Berkeley and began her career as a creative executive for ABC Daytime. Since then she’s penned three TV movies for ABC Family and a pilot for the Disney Channel, won a Daytime Emmy for What If…, a web series she wrote for ABC, and worked as a staff writer on the FOX sitcom The Goodwin Games.

Her first novel for young adults, Never Ever, was published in 2016 and its sequel, The Lost Kids, will publish in spring 2018. Her memoir, Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card was released in February 2018.

She currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband, son, and pug, where she writes for the hit CW show iZombie. Her website is www.sarasaediwriter.com

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Us, In Progress by Lulu Delacre

Us, In Progress by Lulu Delacre. August 29, 2017. HarperCollins, 256 p. ISBN: 9780062392145.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 3.2; Lexile: 740.

Acclaimed author and Pura Belpré Award honoree Lulu Delacre’s beautifully illustrated collection of twelve short stories is a groundbreaking look at the diverse Latinos who live in the United States.

In this book, you will meet many young Latinos living in the United States, from a young girl whose day at her father’s burrito truck surprises her to two sisters working together to change the older sister’s immigration status, and more.

Turn the pages to experience life through the eyes of these boys and girls whose families originally hail from many different countries; see their hardships, celebrate their victories, and come away with a better understanding of what it means to be Latino in the U.S. today.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, Discrimination, Violence, Prejudice

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 3-7. Three-time Pura Belpré Award honoree Delacre offers up 12 short stories, beautifully written with candor, honesty, and perfect brevity, that explore what it means to be a Latinx in the U.S. today. These finely wrought and uniformly well-written stories, many based on true incidents, portray the wide range of cultural and geographic diversity within the Latinx community. They feature both male and female main characters and cover topics such as police abuse, the prevalence of prediabetes in the Latinx population, and the misconception that all Latinos are dark-skinned and poor. Many of the stories deal with community dynamics—how an unassuming member can make an indelible impression, Saturday school language classes, and bullying and family dysfunction—while others address larger social issues, such as guardianship related to deportation and immigration, unaccompanied minors crossing borders, and the 2012 DREAM Act. Delacre illustrates as well, providing a gorgeous mixed-media portrait of each story’s main character, and a glossary of Spanish words and phrases, organized by story, concludes the book. Delacre’s lyrical writing perfectly expresses what the characters are experiencing, and each story’s ending is honest and satisfying, if sometimes open-ended—much like real life. A collection not to be missed.

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2017)
This collection opens with “The Attack,” an all-too-timely account of a young Latino man with a disability being mistreated by the police. The twelve tales are all based on true events, appended with notes that explain where Delacre first learned of them and citing the article that informed each piece. The deliberate voice and close focus on each fictionalized protagonist turns each headline into a relatable story. At the beginning of each tale, Delacre includes intricate mixed-media character portraits, purposely unfinished, pencil drawings layered between pierced rice paper and incorporating newspaper clippings from her original sources. She also pairs each story with a refran; these sayings are translated in the back matter, which also includes a glossary of Spanish terms. The collection presents stories about health (in “Selfie,” Marla attempts to improve her pre-diabetic condition through cycling); about young people feeling shame over their parents’ jobs (“Burrito Man”); parents being deported (“Band-Aid”); and siblings who are undocumented (“The Secret”). In contrast, in “90,000 Children,” a twelve-year-old Latino boy aspires to be a Border Patrol agent. Delacre’s collection challenges existing misconceptions by giving readers an intimate and varied look into what it is like to be young and Latino in the United States today. sonia alejandra rodriguez

About the Author

Three-time Pura Belpré Award honoree Lulu Delacre has been writing and illustrating children’s books since 1980. Born and raised in Puerto Rico to Argentinean parents, Delacre says her Latino heritage and her life experiences inform her work. Her 37 titles include Us, In Progress: Short Stories About Young LatinosArroz con Leche: Popular Songs and Rhymes from Latin America, a Horn Book Fanfare Book in print for over 25 years; and Salsa Stories, an IRA Outstanding International Book. Her latest picture book ¡Olinguito, de la A a la Z! Descubriendo el bosque nublado; Olinguito, from A to Z! Unveiling the Cloud Forest has received 20 awards and honors including an NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor and an ALA Notable for All Ages. Delacre has lectured internationally and served as a juror for the National Book Awards. She has exhibited at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art; The Original Art Show at the Society of Illustrators in New York; the Museum of Art of Puerto Rico and the Museum of Ponce in Puerto Rico among other venues.

Her website is www.luludelacre.com

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Disappeared by Francisco X. Stork

Disappeared by Francisco X. Stork. September 26, 2017. Arthur A. Levine Books, 329 p. ISBN: 9780545944472.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 710.

Four months ago: Sara Zapata’s best friend disappeared, kidnapped by the web of criminals who terrorize Juàrez.

Four weeks ago: Her brother, Emiliano, fell in love with Perla Rubi, a girl whose family is as rich as her name.

Four hours ago: Sara received a death threat…and her first clue her friend’s location.

Four minutes ago: Emiliano was offered a way into Perla Rubi’s world—if he betrays his own.

In the next four days, Sara and Emiliano will each face impossible choices, between life and justice, friends and family, truth and love. But when the criminals come after Sara, only one path remains for both the siblings: the way across the desert to the United States.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Mild sexual themes, Drugs, Criminal culture

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 22))
Grades 10-12. As a reporter for El Sol newspaper in Juárez, Mexico, Sara tirelessly writes reports on las desaparecidas—girls who suddenly vanish from their homes. It’s more than just a job: her best friend, Linda, disappeared several months ago. Meanwhile, her younger brother, Emiliano, is hard at work earning what he can from small jobs to help support Sara and their mother. When an opportunity arises to increase his family’s finances, he jumps at the chance, only to find out that his dreams of a better life lay in the town’s most lucrative industry—the drug trade. Both siblings find out how much danger they are in when Sara receives threats on her life that may involve Emiliano’s potential business partners. Together, the siblings flee to safety toward the U.S. border. The plight of las desaparecidas is all too real for girls all over Mexico, and Stork does not shy away from the facts of human trafficking, the drug industry, and the senseless violence that accompanies them. Stork uses parallel story lines to flesh out the two protagonists and then slowly brings them together to a harrowing climax. Not only does this result in a riveting story, it also highlights the harsh complexity of young Mexicans’ lives. Readers will find this thrilling as well as eye-opening.

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2017)
Sara Zapata’s best friend is missing. Kidnapped. Sara, a rising-star reporter at Juarez, Mexico’s El Sol newspaper, is determined to find her and shine a light on Juarez’s missing and murdered girls, the Desaparacidas. Sara tells her boss Felipe, “Someone has to keep the memory of these girls alive…If we don’t care about them, then who will?” But as she unearths the State Police’s deep connection to sex slavery, she receives a death threat that puts her family in danger. Her younger brother Emiliano is an entrepreneur on the cusp of success; he’s finally making connections to make a better life for their family and be considered worthy of his wealthy girlfriend. Unlike his father, he doesn’t plan to leave his family behind and move to the United States. But when the lines between right and wrong blur, who can you trust? How do you keep your soul while trying to survive? This emotional thriller–which takes place over the course of seven harrowing days and includes betrayal, desperate escapes, and a perilous trek across the desert to cross the border into the U.S.–tackles these questions and more. In chapters that alternate between Sara’s and Emiliano’s perspectives, Stork beautifully explores the strong ties to one’s home along with the darker pervasiveness of Juarez’s corruption (“this city is like a spiderweb. Every thread is connected directly or indirectly to every other thread”); the lure of power; and the strength necessary to dream, hope, and make positive change in such crushingly dangerous and difficult circumstances. alia jones

About the Author

Francisco X. Stork was born in Mexico. He moved to El Paso Texas with his adoptive father and mother when he was nine. He attended Spring Hill College, Harvard University and Columbia Law School. He worked as an attorney for thirty-three years before retiring in 2015. He is married and has two grown children and two beautiful granddaughters. He loves to discover new books and authors. His favorite books are those where the author’s soul touches his. He does not read reviews to his books so you should feel free to write whatever you want. Also, he is genuinely interested in learning about books and life from his friends on this site. He would love it if you find his books worthy to be read, but that’s not why he wants to be your friend.

His website is www.franciscostork.com

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You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins. September 12, 2017. Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), 320 p. ISBN: 9780374304904.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 720.

Five girls. Three generations. One great American love story. You Bring the Distant Near explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture–for better or worse. Ranee, worried that her children are losing their Indian culture; Sonia, wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair; Tara, seeking the limelight to hide her true self; Shanti, desperately trying to make peace in the family; Anna, fighting to preserve Bengal tigers and her Bengali identity–award-winning author Mitali Perkins weaves together a sweeping story of five women at once intimately relatable and yet entirely new.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial prejudice

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 7-11. How do you make a sweeping family saga feel present and relevant for a teen audience? Jump across time and space and highlight just those pivotal adolescent moments that are as unifying as they are unique: starting a new school, claiming one’s faith, embracing one’s identity, or falling in love. Perkins has created a resonant and memorable tale that is both episodic and wholly unified. Sonia and Tara Das immigrate to New York City with their parents in the 1970s. They are swept into the culture of the vibrant city and quickly push back at their mother Ranee’s traditional expectations of good Indian girls, while their more permissive father encourages Tara’s acting, Sonia’s activism, and independence for both. Twenty year later, their decisions echo in the lives of their own daughters. Sonia’s daughter, Chantal, challenges her family to understand her biracial identity, while Tara’s daughter, Anna, takes a stand to defend her rights in a creative and stylish way. It is Anna and Chantal who ultimately bring Ranee’s character to life as the granddaughters, foils for each other, bear witness to Ranee’s personal awakening after the 9/11 attacks. Full of sisterhood, diversity, and complex, strong women, this book will speak to readers as they will undoubtedly find a kindred spirit in at least one of the Das women.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2017)
Perkins’ latest, inspired by the author’s own experience as the youngest of three sisters who arrived in the United States in the 1970s, is told in alternating voices across three generations. This saga tells the intertwined stories of Ranee Das, the matriarch, who uproots her family from Ghana (and then the United Kingdom) to find fortune in the United States; Sonia and Tara, her daughters, who struggle with identity and acceptance; and Anna and Chantal, Ranee’s granddaughters, who fight injustices at home and in their communities. As in the author’s other books, this novel features inspiring South Asian girl and women protagonists grappling with love, faith, and culture, as well as the intersections among their personal, communal, and national histories. The chapters from Ranee’s point of view, highlighting her redemptive transformation from racist mother-in-law to doting grandmother to a half-black grandchild, and those told in Sonia’s and Tara’s voices, including their turns from awkward and aspiring immigrant teenagers to New York Times reporter and Bollywood star respectively, are lushly drawn and emotionally resonant. The final third of the book, however, from the points of view of Anna and Chantal, is less so; its plotlines—Anna’s quest to redecorate her elite private school’s locker rooms and Chantal’s wrecking of her rich, white boyfriend’s Porsche—seem contrived and hastily written. While “issues” permeate the book (war, migration, racism, colorism, body positivity, environmentalism), they are more deftly woven into the narrative in the earlier, historical chapters than the later, contemporary ones. Although the book loses steam and heart toward the end, the earlier chapters, moving and rich in character and setting, make up for it. (Historical fiction/fiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Mitali Perkins has written several novels for young readers, including You Bring the Distant Near (nominated for the National Book Award) Rickshaw Girl (a NYPL best 100 Book for children in the past 100 years), Bamboo People (an ALA Top 10 YA novel), and Tiger Boy, which won the South Asia Book Award for Younger Readers.

She currently writes and resides in San Francisco. Her website is www.mitaliperkins.com

Teacher Resources

You Bring the Distant Near Discussion Questions

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The Leavers by Lisa Ko

The Leavers by Lisa Ko. May 2, 2017. Algonquin Books, 352 p. ISBN: 9781616206888.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 870.

One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her.

With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. They rename him Daniel Wilkinson in their efforts to make him over into their version of an “all-American boy.” But far away from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his new life with his mother’s disappearance and the memories of the family and community he left behind.

Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging. It’s the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he’s loved has been taken away–and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of her past.

This powerful debut is the winner of the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for fiction, awarded by Barbara Kingsolver for a novel that addresses issues of social justice

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Discrimination, Strong sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
When Deming is 11, his Chinese American mother vanishes, leaving him with a surrogate family that, no longer able to provide for him, places him with foster parents, two academics who move Deming from New York City to upstate New York and subsequently adopt him. Flash-forward 10 years. Now 21, aimless Deming has flunked out of college, more interested in his music than his studies but always wondering about his mother. How could she have left him? Where is she? Then, after all these years, he learns she has returned to China, and, securing her phone number, he calls her. The action then shifts from his point of view to the first-person voice of his absent mother, telling her side of the story. Will son and mother be reunited? Though obviously skillfully written—it’s a winner of the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction—the book can sometimes be difficult to read, thanks to its bleak subject matter, which, nevertheless, is reflective of today’s reality. Those who are interested in closely observed, character-driven fiction will want to leave room for The Leavers on their shelves.

Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2017)
A Chinese woman who works in a New York nail salon doesn’t come home one day; her young son is raised by well-meaning strangers who cannot heal his broken heart.We meet Bronx fifth-grader Deming Guo on the day his mother disappears without a trace. From there, the story moves both forward and backward, intercutting between the narrative of his bumpy path to adulthood and his mother’s testimony. Gradually the picture comes together—Deming was conceived in China and born in America because his unmarried mother, Peilan, decided she would rather borrow the $50,000 to be smuggled to America than live out her life in her rural village. After her baby is born she tries to hide him underneath her sewing machine at work, but clearly she cannot care for him and work enough to repay the loan shark. She sends him back to China to be raised by her aging father. When Deming is 6, Yi Ba dies, and the boy rejoins his mother, who now has a boyfriend and lives with him; his sister, Vivian; and her son, Michael. After Peilan disappears, Deming is shuffled into foster care—his new parents are a pair of white academics upstate. Ten years later, it is Michael who tracks down a college dropout with a gambling problem named Daniel Wilkinson and sends a message that, if he is Deming Guo, he has information about his mother. The twists and turns continue, with the answers about Peilan’s disappearance withheld until the final pages. Daniel’s involvement in the alternative music scene is painted in unnecessary detail, but otherwise the specificity of the intertwined stories is the novel’s strength. Ko’s debut is the winner of the 2016 Pen/Bellwether Prize for Fiction for a novel that addresses issues of social justice, chosen by Barbara Kingsolver. This timely novel depicts the heart- and spirit-breaking difficulties faced by illegal immigrants with meticulous specificity.

About the Author

Lisa Ko’s fiction has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2016, Apogee Journal, Narrative, Copper Nickel, the Asian Pacific American Journal, and elsewhere. She has been awarded fellowships and residencies from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Writers OMI at Ledig House, the Jerome Foundation, and Blue Mountain Center, among others. She was born in New York City, where she now lives.

Her website is lisa-ko.com

Teacher Resources

The Leavers Discussion Questons

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The Leavers on Amazon

The Leavers on Goodreads

The Leavers on JLG

The Leavers Publisher Page

The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah

The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah. May 9, 2017. Scholastic Press, 400 p. ISBN: 9781338118667.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 690.

Boy meets girl. Girl changes everything.

Michael likes to hang out with his friends and play with the latest graphic design software. His parents drag him to rallies held by their anti-immigrant group, which rails against the tide of refugees flooding the country. And it all makes sense to Michael.

Until Mina, a beautiful girl from the other side of the protest lines, shows up at his school, and turns out to be funny, smart—and a Muslim refugee from Afghanistan. Suddenly, his parents’ politics seem much more complicated.

Mina has had a long and dangerous journey fleeing her besieged home in Afghanistan, and now faces a frigid reception at her new prep school, where she is on scholarship. As tensions rise, lines are drawn. Michael has to decide where he stands. Mina has to protect herself and her family. Both have to choose what they want their world to look like

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Fighting, Strong language, Drugs, Underage drinking

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 9-12. Acclaimed author and Islamophobia expert Abdel-Fattah pens another timely story. As a child, Mina came to Australia by boat, a Muslim refugee escaping turmoil in her native Afghanistan. Now, as a teen, she enters an elite preparatory school on the other side of Sydney, on scholarship. Michael, a natural-born Australian citizen, hasn’t spent too much time second-guessing his parents’ involvement in a local anti-immigrant group, until he sees Mina, and his unquestioning trust in his parents begins to fray. Told in chapters alternating between Mina and Michael, this mature, nuanced novel explores the forces that feed anti-immigrant sentiment and the hypocrisy that festers in hateful beliefs. There are no easy answers here, and, indeed, several uncomfortable moments as Michael resists his parents’ deeply held beliefs. Though a novel like this could easily become didactic, Abdel-Fattah expertly sidesteps heavy-handed lessons, instead deeply rooting the story in the experiences of these two teenagers, rendering their story, encompassing romance, a testament to friendship, and a powerful call to action, in utterly real and sympathetic terms. Though the setting is Australia, readers will find direct parallels to current situations in the U.S., and given the fallout of the 2016 election, this book could not be more necessary. Deserving of wide readership and discussion.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 1, 2017)
An Afghani-Australian teen named Mina earns a scholarship to a prestigious private school and meets Michael, whose family opposes allowing Muslim refugees and immigrants into the country. Dual points of view are presented in this moving and intelligent contemporary novel set in Australia. Eleventh-grader Mina is smart and self-possessed—her mother and stepfather (her biological father was murdered in Afghanistan) have moved their business and home across Sydney in order for her to attend Victoria College. She’s determined to excel there, even though being surrounded by such privilege is a culture shock for her. When she meets white Michael, the two are drawn to each other even though his close-knit, activist family espouses a political viewpoint that, though they insist it is merely pragmatic, is unquestionably Islamophobic. Tackling hard topics head-on, Abdel-Fattah explores them fully and with nuance. True-to-life dialogue and realistic teen social dynamics both deepen the tension and provide levity. While Mina and Michael’s attraction seems at first unlikely, the pair’s warmth wins out, and readers will be swept up in their love story and will come away with a clearer understanding of how bias permeates the lives of those targeted by it. A meditation on a timely subject that never forgets to put its characters and their stories first. (Fiction. 12-17)

About the Author

Randa Abdel-Fattah is an award-winning author, former attorney, and an expert on Islamaphobia in Australia. She is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Does My Head Look Big In This? and Ten Things I Hate About Me, as well as the middle-grade novel Where the Streets Had a Name. Ms. Abdel-Fattah lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband and their children.

Her website is www.randaabdelfattah.com

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American Street by Ibi Zoboi

American Street by Ibi Zoboi. February 14, 2017. Balzer + Bray, 324 p. ISBN: 9780062473042.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 690.

The rock in the water does not know the pain of the rock in the sun.

On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life.

But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.

Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Underage drinking; Marijuana usage; Drug dealing

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (December 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 8))
Grades 9-12. Zoboi’s stunning debut intertwines mysticism and love with grit and violence to tell the story of Fabiola Toussaint, a Haitian teen adjusting to her new life in Detroit. Fabiola’s dream of a better life with her aunt and cousins in America snags when her mother is detained at the U.S. border. Forced to continue alone, she must also confront the reality that her new neighborhood is every bit as dangerous as the one she left behind in Port-au-Prince. Drugs, gangs, and violence pervade the status quo, but thanks to her cousins’ tough reputations, Fabiola can find her footing. Zoboi, who emigrated to the U.S. from Haiti, brings a nuanced portrayal of that culture to the narrative. Evocative prose, where Fabiola calls on voodoo spirits, informs and enriches her character, while standing in counterpoint to her hard-as-nails cousins. Zoboi pulls no punches when describing the dangerous realities of the girls’ lives, but tender moments are carefully tucked into the plot as well. This story is many things. It is a struggle for survival. It is the uncovering of one’s bravest self. And, most significant, it is the coming together of a family. One or two scenarios strain credibility, but the characters’ complexities ultimately smooth over any bumps. Fierce and beautiful.

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 15, 2016)
Fabiola Toussaint is a black immigrant girl whose life is flipped upside down when she moves to Detroit, Michigan, from her homeland of Haiti and her mother is detained by the INS, leaving her to go on alone. Though Fabiola was born in the U.S., she has lived in Haiti since she was an infant, and that has now left her unprepared for life in America. In Detroit, she lives with her aunt Marjorie and her three thoroughly Americanized cousins, Chantal, Primadonna, and Princess. It’s not easy holding on to her heritage and identity in Detroit; Matant Jo fines Fabiola for speaking Creole (though even still “a bit of Haiti is peppered in her English words”), and the gritty streets of Detroit are very different from those of Port-au-Prince. Fabiola has her faith to help keep her grounded, which grows ever more important as she navigates her new school, American society, and a surprising romance—but especially when she is faced with a dangerous proposition that brings home to her the fact that freedom comes with a price. Fabiola’s perceptive, sensitive narration gives readers a keen, well-executed look into how the American dream can be a nightmare for so many. Filling her pages with magic, humanity, tragedy, and hope, Zoboi builds up, takes apart, and then rebuilds an unforgettable story. This book will take root in readers’ hearts. (Fiction. 14 & up)

About the Author

Ibi Zoboi was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and immigrated to the U.S. when she was four years old. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she was a recipient of the Norma Fox Mazer Award. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and three children. American Street is her first novel.

Her website is www.ibizoboi.net.

Teacher Resources

American Street Reading Group Resources

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The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui

The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui. March 7, 2017. Abrams Books, 336 p. ISBN: 9781419718779.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 600.

An intimate and poignant graphic novel portraying one family’s journey from war-torn Vietnam, from debut author Thi Bui.

This beautifully illustrated and emotional story is an evocative memoir about the search for a better future and a longing for the past. Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family, Bui documents the story of her family’s daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s, and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves.

At the heart of Bui’s story is a universal struggle: While adjusting to life as a first-time mother, she ultimately discovers what it means to be a parent—the endless sacrifices, the unnoticed gestures, and the depths of unspoken love. Despite how impossible it seems to take on the simultaneous roles of both parent and child, Bui pushes through. With haunting, poetic writing and breathtaking art, she examines the strength of family, the importance of identity, and the meaning of home.

In what Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen calls “a book to break your heart and heal it,” The Best We Could Do brings to life Thi Bui’s journey of understanding, and provides inspiration to all of those who search for a better future while longing for a simpler past.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Racial taunts; War; Violence; Realistic depiction of childbirth; Stillbirth; Child abuse

 

Reviews

Library Journal – web only (January 27, 2017)
[DEBUT] With her debut graphic memoir, Bui captivates readers with her recounting of the struggle her family faced as they emigrated from Vietnam to the United States after the war, leaving behind their way of life. Now, as a new mother, Bui starts to contemplate her parents’ lives and what events led them to their current situation. The narrative then rewinds to the author’s childhood in California and her desire to understand why her parents fled their home in the Seventies. Spanning her own experience as well as that of her parents in the French-occupied and ultimately war-torn country, this oral retelling takes readers down the path of three generations, presenting a firsthand glimpse into the history of Vietnam. Uncovering deeper insight into her heritage, which resonates for her as an adult, Bui creates a seamless transition between past and present, making for an accessible read, along with beautiful artwork that draws us in with every panel. Verdict Be prepared to take your heart on an emotional roller-coaster journey with this thought-provoking account that completely satisfies as the story comes full circle. Highly recommended for teens and adults; an excellent choice for book clubs.-Laura McKinley, Huntington P.L., NY

Publishers Weekly (December 5, 2016)
Tracing her family’s journey to the United States and their sometimes-uneasy adaptation to American life, Bui’s magnificent memoir is not unique in its overall shape, but its details are: a bit of blood sausage in a time of famine, a chilly apartment, a father’s sandals contrasted with his son’s professional shoes. The story opens with the birth of Bui’s son in New York City, and then goes back to Vietnam to trace the many births and stillbirths of her parents, and their eventual boat journey to the U.S. In excavating her family’s trauma through these brief, luminous glimpses, Bui transmutes the base metal of war and struggle into gold. She does not spare her loved ones criticism or linger needlessly on their flaws. Likewise she refuses to flatten the twists and turns of their histories into neat, linear narratives. She embraces the whole of it: the misery of the Vietnam War, the alien land of America, and the liminal space she occupies, as the child with so much on her shoulders. In this mélange of comedy and tragedy, family love and brokenness, she finds beauty. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Thi Bui was born in Vietnam and immigrated to the United States as a child. She studied art and law and thought about becoming a civil rights lawyer, but became a public school teacher instead. Bui lives in Berkeley, California, with her son, her husband, and her mother. The Best We Could Do is her debut graphic novel.

Her website is www.thibui.com.

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