Tag Archives: immigration

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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The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande

The Distance Between Us: Young Readers Edition by Reyna Grande. September 6, 2016. Aladdin, 336 p. ISBN: 9781481463713.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.1; Lexile: 780.

When her parents make the dangerous and illegal trek across the Mexican border in pursuit of the American dream, Reyna and her siblings are forced to live with their stern grandmother, as they wait for their parents to build the foundation of a new life.

But when things don’t go quite as planned, Reyna finds herself preparing for her own journey to “El Otro Lado” to live with the man who has haunted her imagination for years: her long-absent father. Both funny and heartbreaking, The Distance Between Us beautifully captures the struggle that Reyna and her siblings endured while trying to assimilate to a different culture, language, and family life in El Otro Lado (The Other Side).

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns; Child abuse and neglect; Domestic violence; Harsh realities of poverty; Corporal punishment; Death of a child; Graphic description of a dead body; Allusions to suicide; Alcoholism; Gang violence; Shoplifting; Ethnic slurs

 

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 1))
Grades 5-8. Reyna’s parents have moved to El Otro Lado (The Other Side) and have left her behind. In this young readers edition of her memoir, Grande writes about a difficult time in her childhood when her parents moved to the U.S. and she stayed behind in Iguala, Mexico, with her older siblings. Grande shares a timely story of a transnational family and the economic and emotional hardships she endured—such as not being adequately taken care of by her grandmother and being called an “orphan” by other children. While her parents have left in search of work, Reyna just wants her family back together and does not entirely understand why they had to leave in the first place. Readers will be captivated by Grande’s beautiful and heart-wrenching story, from her detailed inner thoughts to the descriptions of the environment around her. Her longing to reconnect with her father, whom she refers to as the “man behind the glass,” because she only knows him through an old framed photograph, is one readers will avidly follow. Grande’s memoir offers an important account of the many ways immigration impacts children. Similar stories that touch on themes of immigration and family include the young-adult adaptation of Sonia Nazario’s Enrique’s Journey (2013) and Margarita Engle’s Enchanted Air (2015).

Kirkus Reviews (June 15, 2016)
This moving coming-of-age memoir by novelist Grande was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist in 2012. It has now been adapted for a younger audience.The grown-up Grande writes credibly in the voice of her younger self about growing up in Iguala de la Independencia in southern Mexico. The book starts as her mother is leaving for the United States to join her husband, who left two years before. Grande and her older siblings are left in their grandmother’s care. Life in Iguala is one of grinding poverty and abusive treatment. Their parents have left with the dream of earning enough money to build a house back in Iguala; meanwhile the children have their own dream of being reunited with their parents and once more being a family. As Grande’s parents’ marriage collapses, their mother returns only to leave again and again. Eventually, their father takes them to the U.S. The author describes a life that, though different, is not easy on the other side of the border. They must live in fear of deportation, learn a new language, cower under their father’s abusive treatment, and make do, always on the financial edge. Though redacted for young readers, this edition pulls no punches, and its frank honesty does not read “young” in any way. Read this along with Francisco Jimenez’s biographical series, starting with The Circuit (1997). This heartrending and thoughtful memoir puts a human face on immigration’s personal toll. (Memoir. 12-18)

About the Author

Reyna Grande is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir, The Distance Between Us, which the Los Angeles Times hailed as “the Angela’s Ashes of the modern Mexican immigrant experience.” A National Book Critics Circle Awards finalist, The Distance Between Us is about Grande’s life before and after coming to the U.S as an undocumented child immigrant. It is about what is lost and what is gained in the pursuit of a better life. The Common Reading book selection at colleges and universities across the nation, in September 2016, The Distance Between Us was republished for young readers ages 10-14.

Born in Mexico in 1975, Grande was raised by her grandparents after her parents left her behind while they worked in the U.S. She came to the U.S. at the age of nine as an undocumented immigrant and went on to become the first person in her family to obtain a higher education. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative Writing and Film and Video from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Antioch University. She is a sought-after speaker at middle/high schools, colleges and universities across the nation, and teaches creative writing workshops.

Her website is www.reynagrande.com.

Teacher Resources

The Distance Between Us Discussion Guide

The Distance Between Us Lesson Plans

The Distance Between Us Reading Guide

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The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. November 1, 2016. Delacorte Press, 384 p. ISBN: 9780553496697.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 650.

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes

 

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 22))
Grades 8-12. On a summer morning in New York City, Daniel and Natasha wake up as strangers. This is a day that could catapult their lives into entirely new directions that neither of them wants to take. Natasha has only hours left to prevent her family’s deportation to Jamaica, after a minor legal infraction jeopardizes their stay in the U.S. Daniel dreads sealing his fate with an alumni interview that will pave his way to a career in medicine, as his Korean family expects. Despite a day packed with Natasha’s desperate race against time and a tangled system, and Daniel’s difficult tug-of-war between familial pressures and autonomy, love finds a way in, takes hold, and changes them both forever. Yoon’s sophomore effort (Everything, Everything, 2015) is carefully plotted and distinctly narrated in Natasha’s and Daniel’s voices; yet it also allows space for the lives that are swirling around them, from security guards to waitresses to close relatives. It’s lyrical and sweeping, full of hope, heartbreak, fate, and free will. It encompasses the cultural specifics of diverse New York City communities and the universal beating of the human heart. Every day—like every book—begins full of possibility, but this one holds more than others.

Kirkus Reviews starred (September 1, 2016)
Natasha and Daniel meet, get existential, and fall in love during 12 intense hours in New York City.Natasha believes in science and facts, things she can quantify. Fact: undocumented immigrants in the U.S., her family is being deported to Jamaica in a matter of hours. Daniel’s a poet who believes in love, something that can’t be explained. Fact: his parents, Korean immigrants, expect him to attend an Ivy League school and become an M.D. When Natasha and Daniel meet, Natasha’s understandably distracted—and doesn’t want to be distracted by Daniel. Daniel feels what in Japanese is called koi no yokan, “the feeling when you meet someone that you’re going to fall in love with them.” The narrative alternates between the pair, their first-person accounts punctuated by musings that include compelling character histories. Daniel—sure they’re meant to be—is determined to get Natasha to fall in love with him (using a scientific list). Meanwhile, Natasha desperately attempts to forestall her family’s deportation and, despite herself, begins to fall for sweet, disarmingly earnest Daniel. This could be a sappy, saccharine story of love conquering all, but Yoon’s lush prose chronicles an authentic romance that’s also a meditation on family, immigration, and fate. With appeal to cynics and romantics alike, this profound exploration of life and love tempers harsh realities with the beauty of hope in a way that is both deeply moving and satisfying. (Fiction. 14 & up)

About the Author

Nicola Yoon grew up in Jamaica (the island) and Brooklyn (part of Long Island). She currently resides in Los Angeles, CA with her husband and daughter, both of whom she loves beyond all reason.

Her website is www.NicolaYoon.com.

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Hidden by Miriam Halahmy

Hidden by Miriam Halahmy. Septmber 15, 2016. Holiday House, 224 p. ISBN: 9780823436941.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.8; Lexile: 820.

For fourteen-year-old Alix, life on Hayling Island off the coast of England seems insulated from problems such as war, terrorism and refugees. But then, one day at the beach, Alix and her friend Samir pull a drowning man out of the incoming tide. Mohammed, an illegal immigrant and student, has been tortured by rebels in Iraq for helping the allied forces and has spent all his money to escape. Desperate not to be deported, Mohammed’s destiny now lies in Alix’shands, and she is faced with the biggest moral dilemma of her life.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Violence; Underage drinking; Smoking; Racism and racist epithets; Harsh realities of war

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (September 15, 2016)
A British teen comes face to face with anti-immigrant xenophobia. It’s 2007. Alexandra “Alix” Miller is nearly 15 and admittedly “Number One Nerd in Year 10” when she diverts town bully Terrence Bellows from harassing Samir, an Iraqi refugee new to her school. But Terrence isn’t alone: many people on Hayling Island say and do Islamophobic things, from Alix’s classmates and her boss to her best friend; even Alix herself thinks of Samir and his brother, Naazim, as “foreign,” worries they might be “terrorists,” and jokes that Samir’s a “suicide bomber.” Alix’s opinions—and Samir’s affection—shift as they rescue Mohammed, an undocumented Iraqi immigrant escaping torture and seeking asylum, from drowning and hypothermia, then strive to keep him safe. Unfortunately, in her efforts to bring understanding to Britain’s immigrant crisis and the country’s role in the Iraq War, Halahmy (whose husband is Iraqi) indulges in other stereotypes, such as the broken English of Samir’s Chinese neighbor. Even more unfortunate in a book specifically about cultural awakening, only people of color are described explicitly; all other characters, including narrator Alix, are assumed to be white, an assumption that undercuts the book’s effectiveness and limits its reach. While Alix eventually works to address her cultural cluelessness, her proprietary actions with Mohammed have a whiff of the white savior about them. This all-too-timely book means well, but it may not be the age-of-Brexit corrective it clearly wishes to be. (Historical fiction. 12-16)

School Library Journal (August 1, 2016)
Gr 6-9-When teenager Alix and her new friend, Samir, see a man tossed out of a speeding boat into the churning waters off the coast of their small English island, they leap into the strong current to pull out the battered man. When they realize he’s an Iraqi refugee seeking asylum, Alix is hesitant to help him, but Samir-who himself was once a refugee fleeing Iraq-begs Alix to help harbor the stranger. Over the course of the novel, Alix confronts her own perceptions and prejudices, as well as those of her friends, family, and neighbors. Her development from a self-involved child to a broad-thinking and selfless young adult is gradual and realistic, with Alix making plenty of mistakes-and actually learning from them-along the way. The writing is simple and straightforward, and though it won’t challenge strong readers, this novel will appeal to younger teens as well as to reluctant readers. VERDICT An engaging, fast-paced story that pushes teens to consider all sides of the immigration issue, this is a great choice for middle school libraries or for struggling readers.-Leighanne Law, Scriber Lake High School, WA

About the Author

Miriam Halahmy is a novelist, a former special needs educator and a poet. She writes for adults, teens and children and has published five novels, three poetry collections and many short stories. Miriam is inspired by social and political issues in both contemporary lives and in the recent past. Her writing highlights the dilemmas ordinary young people are often faced with and how they tackle the difficulties in their lives. Miriam is married with two children and two grandchildren. She lives in London, England but she loves to travel and has a great interest in different cultures and languages.

Her website is www.miriamhalahmy.com.

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Watched by Marina Budhos

Watched by Marina Budhos. September 13, 2016. Wendy Lamb Books, 272 p. ISBN: 9780553534191.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Marina Budhos’s extraordinary and timely novel examines what it’s like to grow up under surveillance, something many Americans experience and most Muslim Americans know.

Naeem is far from the “model teen.” Moving fast in his immigrant neighborhood in Queens is the only way he can outrun the eyes of his hardworking Bangladeshi parents and their gossipy neighbors. Even worse, they’re not the only ones watching. Cameras on poles. Mosques infiltrated. Everyone knows: Be careful what you say and who you say it to. Anyone might be a watcher.

Naeem thinks he can charm his way through anything, until his mistakes catch up with him and the cops offer a dark deal. Naeem sees a way to be a hero—a protector—like the guys in his brother’s comic books. Yet what is a hero? What is a traitor? And where does Naeem belong?

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 1))
Grades 6-9. Naeem Rahman can’t stop moving. After emigrating from Bangladesh to New York at age 11, he, as a high-school senior, spends his days cutting class and moving through the streets of Queens, hoping to avoid the watchful eyes of his father, stepmother, and half brother; his hordes of nosy neighbors; and especially the police and cameras that cover his Muslim neighborhood. When his friend Ibrahim tricks him into shoplifting, two NYPD officers leave Naeem with a choice. Either go to jail or become exactly what he has always hated—a spy, an informant, a watcher—thereby betraying his family, friends, and community. Budhos, author of two other novels that focus on immigrant teens (Ask Me No Questions, 2006, and Tell Us We’re Home, 2010), presents another effective coming-of-age novel, one that not only confronts without reservation the notion of Islamaphobia and issues of teenage identity but also tackles the grittier aspects of life in this post-9/11 era. What does it mean to belong to a family? a community? a country?

Kirkus Reviews (June 15, 2016)
Naeem, a teenager living in an immigrant neighborhood in Queens, finds his grip on life slipping.With his performance in school deteriorating, he feels unable to deal with the disappointment of his hardworking and hopeful Bangladeshi parents–and then there are the inquisitive eyes and mouths of their neighbors. Hoping to avoid them, Naeem keeps himself constantly on the move. But he is always aware that he is always being watched, by cops and by cameras placed all around. He’s taken small risks, but close calls have not been enough to deter him, until one day his past mistakes catch up with him and he has to make a choice between paying dearly or taking a deal the cops offer him: to become a watcher and help them spy on the people in his neighborhood. Having previously written about immigrant teens in Tell Us We’re Home (2010) and Ask Me No Questions (2006), Budhos again tackles identity and belonging or lack thereof, as well as Islamophobia and growing up under surveillance. It’s a slow story, appropriately filled with uncertainty. Action takes second place to a deeper message, and room is left for readers to speculate on the fates of certain characters. While the absence of certainty may frustrate some readers, it also speaks to the underlying takeaway: you can never be sure what others’ intentions are, even if you have made it your job to study them. (Thriller. 12-18)

About the Author

Marina Budhos is an author of award-winning fiction and nonfiction.

She has published the novels, Watched (Random House/Wendy Lam Books, 2016), Ask Me No Questions (Simon & Schuster, 2006), an ALA Notable and winner of the first James Cook Teen Book Award, The Professor of Light (Putnam, 1999), House of Waiting (Global City Press, 1995) and a nonfiction book, Remix: Conversations with Immigrant Teenagers (Henry Holt, 1999). She and her husband Marc Aronson coauthored the acclaimed Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom & Science (Clarion/Houghton Mifflin, 2010). Their latest joint endeavor, Eyes of the World: Robert Capa, Gerda Taro & The Invention of Modern Photojournalism will be published in 2017 by Henry Holt & Co.

Her short stories, articles, essays, and book reviews have appeared in publications such as The Daily Beast, Quartz, The Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, The Literary Review, The Nation, Dissent, Marie Claire, Redbook, Travel & Leisure, Ms., Los Angeles Times, and in numerous anthologies.

Ms. Budhos has received an emma (Exceptional Merit Media Award), a Rona Jaffe Award for Women Writers, and a Fellowship from the New Jersey Council on the Arts. She has been a Fulbright Scholar to India, given talks throughout the country and abroad, and is currently on the faculty of the English Department at William Paterson University.

Her website is www.marinabudhos.com.

Teacher Resources

Interview with Marina Budhos via NBCNews

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Cloudwish by Fiona Wood

Cloudwish by Fiona Wood. October 18, 2016. Poppy, 320 p. ISBN: 9780316242127.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 780.

For Vân Ước, fantasies fall into two categories: nourishing or pointless. Daydreaming about attending her own art opening? Nourishing. Daydreaming about Billy Gardiner, star of the rowing team who doesn’t even know she’s alive? Pointless.

So Vân Ước tries to stick to her reality—keeping a low profile as a scholarship student at her prestigious Melbourne private school, managing her mother’s PTSD from a traumatic emigration from Vietnam, and admiring Billy from afar. Until she makes a wish that inexplicably (possibly magically) comes true. Billy actually notices her. In fact, he seems to genuinely like her. But as they try to fit each other into their very different lives, Vân Ước can’t help but wonder why Billy has suddenly fallen for her. Is it the magic of first love, or is it magic from a well-timed wish that will eventually, inevitably, come to an end?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes

 

Book Launch

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 2))
Grades 9-12. Vân Ước, daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, is a first-generation Australian, and apart from chafing under intense academic pressures and the expectations of her parents, she’s nursing a crush on the golden boy of her grade, Billy Gardiner. When a wish that Billy “found her . . . fascinating” impossibly comes true, the popular, athletic Billy can’t leave her alone. At first, she’s sure it’s a trick, especially when in-crowd mean girls start spreading cruel rumors about her. Soon, there’s no denying his interest, but is his love for real or is it just the wish? Though Wood’s description of the immigrant experience often feels fairly paint-by-numbers and the romance comes across a bit half-baked, Wood is perhaps best at capturing the rich, sometimes contradictory teenage emotional landscape, and that’s what’s most powerful here. Brainy, mostly self-assured Vân Ước waffles between confidence, desire, insecurity, guilt, and loyalty, and Wood coolly unspools it all. Fans of her earlier novels will be pleased to see some familiar faces, and others might find solidarity in Vân Ước’s moving coming-of-age.

Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2016)
A Vietnamese-Australian teen grapples with her family expectations.Sixteen-year-old Vân Uoc, a child of Vietnamese refugees, is the perfect daughter and student. As a scholarship student in private school, she is under immense pressure to earn straight A’s, play the oboe, and participate in her school’s community life. During a creative-writing master class, she makes an offhanded wish that Billy, a popular white boy, would like her. Her wish becomes a reality when he suddenly pays attention to her. Although Vân Uoc is initially suspicious of Billy’s wish-fueled intentions, she allows herself to date him—but she’ll never know for sure. Wood’s attempt to walk in a Vietnamese-Aussie teen’s shoes feels removed, as if she’s translating. Vân Uoc’s character comes across as simultaneously self-loathing and indifferent even when she is supposed to be angry or sad. Missing cultural nuances, such as her failure to call an adult the respectful Ông or Bà, will stand out for Asian-American readers. Some characters, such as privileged Billy and “lesbian-in-waiting” best friend Jess, seem to exist merely as elements on a hidden diversity checklist. The text’s inconsistent italicization of Vietnamese words is distracting; many foods are not italicized, yet terms for father, mother, and daughter are. Vân Uoc’s struggle to reconcile her parents’ wishes and her passion for art is a tired conflict, especially for Asian characters. Misguided. (Fiction. 13-17)

About the Author

Fiona Wood is the author of young adult novels, Six Impossible Things, Wildlife, and Cloudwish. Before writing YA fiction, Fiona worked as a television scriptwriter for twelve years, writing everything from soap, and one-hour adult drama, to children’s drama. Prior to this she dropped out of law and completed an arts degree, both at Melbourne University, worked in marketing and in arts management, did some freelance journalism, and studied screenwriting at RMIT. She has served as a judge for the AWGIE Awards (Australian Writers’ Guild) and is an ambassador for The Stella Prize Schools Program. She has two YA children, and lives in Melbourne with her husband.

Her website is www.fionawood.com.

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