Tag Archives: immigration

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

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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

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The Leavers Discussion Questons

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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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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

 

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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

 

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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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Hidden on Amazon

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Hidden on Goodreads