Teen Librarian Toolbox
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Highlighting the Immigrant Experience through Art and Young Adult Literature, A guest post by librarian Lisa Krok

This week I had the opportunity to visit the incredible exhibit, The American Library, by Yinka Shonibare, MBE at the Cleveland Public Library in Cleveland, Ohio. This exhibit was commissioned as part of An American City: Eleven Cultural Exercises by FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art. Dedicated to supporting freedom of speech, blended heritage, open borders, and educational rights, The American Library is a sequel to Shonibare’s The British Library installation of 2014. Approximately six thousand books are wrapped in vibrant African wax cloth (a main feature of the artist’s work) and are housed in open bookshelves for display. The spines of the books are stamped in golden ink with the name of a first- or second-generation immigrant to the United States. Each immigrant featured has contributed to American culture via the arts, science, sports, politics, and more. There are also a few names of those opposed to immigration sprinkled in, for a scavenger hunt of sorts.

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The breathtaking sights that greet visitors upon entering the exhibit.

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The double-sided shelving encourages plenty of exploration. The teen librarian in me intentionally sought out names that would have recognition and appeal for teens. What an incredible field trip this would be for teachers to take their students and prompt lively discussions!

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Wrestler/actor John Cena, baseball star Omar Vizquel, politician/activist Kamala Harris

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Tattoo artist/tv personality Kat Von D, basketball star Kyrie Irving

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Can you spy the dissenter on this shelf with musician Selena Gomez?

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Young adult author Nnedi Okorafor, Maria Von Trapp of The Sound of Music fame, and legendary musician, John Lennon

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President Barack Obama standing strong on a shelf with dissenter Peter Brimelow

These examples are only a handful of many that visitors can find when touring The American Library installation at the Cleveland Public Library. Highly recommended for anyone living close enough to visit before the exhibit concludes on September 30. For those living too far for a live visit, please go to  https://cpl.org/theamericanlibrary/ and https://frontart.org/  for more information and images.

 

After seeing this, as a teen librarian or a teacher working with teens, what can you do?

  • Visit in person and/or share the websites above with teens to promote conversations about immigrants and refugees.
  • Those interested in sharing their own family histories can tag posts on social media with #FRONTArt2018. This helps to provide an interactive element that will enhance discussions about immigration on a broader level.
  • Research family ancestries at the library.
  • Promote, share, and engage teens with reflections from YA books about immigration and refugees.

 

Please see below for recent YA titles featuring immigrants and/or refugees:

poet XThe Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Internment by Samira Ahmed  (March 2019)

love hate

Love ,Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown

american panda

American Panda by Gloria Chao

Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin

Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers (MG)

Refugee by Alan Gratz

Hooper by Geoff Herbach

The War Outside by Monica Hesse

darius

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

Escape from Syria by Samya Kullab and Jackie Roche

From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore (MG)

This Land is Our Land: A History of American Immigration by Linda Barrett Osborne

astonishing

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan

Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card by Sara Saedi

i am not your

I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez

Escape from Aleppo by  N. H. Senzai

The Dangerous Art of Blending In by Angelo Surmelis

Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson (MG)

American Street by Ibi Zoboi

*MG denotes middle grade

**All photos of exhibit were taken by author of this article with permission for reuse.

 

lisakrok

-Lisa Krok is a branch manager in the Cleveland Public Library system (Cleveland, Ohio), a member of the 2019 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers team, and a Ravenclaw. She can be found being bookish and political on Twitter @readonthebeach.

On World Refugee Day 2018, #ReadForChange with Alan Gratz’ Refugee

ReadForChange copyTeen Librarian Toolbox is excited to be partnering with Marie Marquardt for her #ReadForChange project. Hop on over to this post to learn more about the initiative. Today, she and Alan Gratz join us for a conversation about immigrants, refugees, taking action, and his middle grade novel, Refugee.

 

 

“No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”

Warsan Shire, “Home”

 

Three Children, Three Boats, Three Courageous Journeys to Find a New Home

 

refugeeToday, June 20, 2018, is World Refugee Day. I can think of no more timely, more meaningful, or more compelling book to recommend on this day than Alan Gratz’ Middle-Grade novel, Refugee.

 

The first time I met Alan, he gave me his card. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the tagline under his name: “Putting fictional kids in danger since 2006.” Alan certainly lives up to this promise in Refugee. The novel deftly weaves together the harrowing stories of three young teens who set off with their families in search of safety: Josef, fleeing Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel, escaping a crumbling Cuba in 1994, and Mahmoud, leaving war-torn Aleppo in 2015. Readers travel with brave young teenagers across oceans and seas, through ship wrecks, shark attacks, robberies and extortion. We also experience, with the story’s protagonists, moments of extraordinary beauty, as people reach out to help one-another through times of unthinkable distress.

 

As someone who works with immigrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers in the United States, I think perhaps the most compelling aspect of this story’s construction is how well it de-centers the contemporary narrative, depicting a global flow of real human beings who seek safety across space and through time. Joseph’s family journeys from Germany to Cuba, Isabel’s from Cuba to the United States, and Mahmoud’s from Syria to Germany. Their stories remind us that people from all regions of the world, of all ethnicities, religions, and social classes, find themselves in the impossible situation of having no alternative but to leave behind everything they know and seek safety among strangers.

 

In other words: these refugees could be you or me.

 

World-Refugee-Day-1 (1)Refugee is carefully-researched, historically accurate, and nothing short of brilliant, for many more reasons than I can explain here (you’ll just have to read it for yourselves!). Alan Gratz manages to weave together these three families’ stories in ways that unflinchingly portray the evil effects of de-humanizing entire communities, while also reminding us of the enormous capacity we humans have to endure suffering, to act out of love, and to do what is right and good. Be forewarned: If you are human (and I’m assuming you are), you will shed tears. Some will be tears of joy.

 

One of the themes that Refugee explores invisibility and visibility. Mahmoud, in particular, reflects often on his journey: “Mahmoud’s first instinct was to disappear below decks, to be invisible. Being invisible in Syria had kept him alive. But now Mahmoud began to wonder if being invisible in Europe might be the death of him and his family. If no one saw them, no one could help them. And maybe the world needed to see what was happening here.”

 

In honor of Mahmoud, Isabel, Josef and all the real people on whom their story is based, let us all open our eyes and see! And then let us take courageous action to build refuge together, in these tempestuous times.

 

“Changing the Hearts and Minds of my Readers”: A Conversation with Alan Gratz

 

Photo by Wes Stitt

Photo by Wes Stitt

MARIE: Tell us about the moment when you knew that this story had to be written, and that you needed to be the one to write it.

 

ALAN: The story of Refugee began with the MS St. Louis, a real ship that set sail from Nazi Germany in early 1939 with nine hundred and thirty-seven passengers on board, almost all of them Jewish refugees bound for Cuba.

I was still looking for a way into the story of the MS St. Louis for young readers when my wife and daughter and I took a family vacation to the Florida Keys in early 2015. One morning we got up to walk along the small patch of beach in front of our resort, and we ran right into a homemade boat someone had used to come to America. There was room on the wooden benches for thirteen people, and abandoned clothing and plastic water bottles still littered the floor. The back end had an old rusty engine that had been yanked out of a car or a tractor and was attached to a propeller shaft. There were plastic paint buckets to bail it out along the way, and the whole bottom of the boat and all the seams were covered with Great Stuff—that foam insulation that comes from a spray can. That and the painted plywood walls were all that kept the seawater out.

One day the boat wasn’t there, and the next day it was. Whoever had been aboard had arrived in the night while we were sleeping, just a few hundred yards away from our room. The day before, while my daughter had been swimming in the pool and my wife and I had been reading books in hammocks in the shade, whoever had been on board this boat had been steering north, avoiding oil tankers and sharks and the American Coast Guard in a desperate, dangerous attempt to find refuge in America.

That boat was a wake-up call for me. I knew that immigrants and refugees were trying to reach America every day, by land, air, and sea, through channels official and unofficial, but because I didn’t live at the front lines of that struggle I didn’t see it every day. And out of sight was definitely out of mind. I wanted to do something about that. That’s when I knew this was a book I had to write. I wanted to write a book about the MS St. Louis, but I wanted to write a book about Cuban refugees too.

And then, every day, doing their part to make sure none of us forgot, newspapers and news channels and the Internet were showing us devastating image after devastating image of the refugee crisis caused by the Syrian Civil War. The Syrian Civil War began in 2011, and is still going on. More than two million Syrians have been killed or injured, and seven plus years of war have left around eleven million Syrians—half their entire population—homeless. I wanted to write a book about the MS St. Louis, and I wanted to write a book about Cuban refugees, and now I wanted to write a book about the Syrian refugee crisis too.

And then I realized, I could write a book about all three. I would tell the story of Josef, a Jewish boy trying to escape Nazi Germany for Cuba with his family on board the MS St. Louis in 1939, of Isabel, a Cuban girl trying to escape communist Cuba with her family for America on board a raft in 1994, and of Mahmoud, a Syrian boy trying to escape the Syrian Civil War for Germany with his family in the present day.

My sincere hope for young readers who pick up Refugee is that it, like that homemade raft I stumbled across in Florida, makes the invisible visible again.

 

 

MARIE: What are some of the things you’re doing to create the world that you want to live in?

 

ALAN: My family and I sat down recently to talk about all the causes we wanted to support, and how much we could afford to give, and now we make regular contributions to a variety of social, environmental, and political groups. Beyond that, I figured that what I do best is write, so I would use my talents to help bring awareness to the issues and causes I support. And that’s been paying off. Kids across the country (and around the world!) are reading Refugee and advocating and working for change. Kids are working with their local refugee aid groups in their communities, they are raising money for UNICEF, they are calling their congresspeople and championing refugees. The book hasn’t even been out for a year yet, and the response from young readers has been amazing. I hope, in some small way, that I’m helping make the world one I want to live in by changing the hearts and minds of my readers!

 

 

MARIE: For readers who are moved to take action themselves, what’s your advice?

 

ALAN: Start local. Almost every community has a local refugee aid or resettlement organization, and they can use things larger world-wide organizations like UNICEF can’t–they need things kids can help collect, like socks, coats, blankets, and canned food. If they want to look more globally, organizations like UNICEF and Save the Children work on behalf of young refugees around the world, providing necessities and education. But the simplest thing kids can do is to become a friend to refugees. If there are any refugees at their schools, or in their churches or neighborhoods, just saying hello and getting to know them and being a friend is a tremendous thing to someone who has been displaced against their will and is starting all over again.

 

MARIE: Thanks so much, Alan. This theme of working in our local communities is one that I’ve heard from so many of our featured authors, from Jodi Lynn Anderson, talking about combating climate change, to Lilliam Rivera on gentrification. I love this idea of getting to know our neighbors and working with them to build a better world – from the ground up!

 

 

“Out of sight… out of mind. I wanted to do something about that.”

 

Ready to learn more? First, be sure to read Alan’s very informative Author’s Note, at the end of Refugee. Then, dive into one of these four non-fiction books – all excellent, and all appropriate for young readers:

 

519PzgQWh-L._SX351_BO1,204,203,200_Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees by Mary Beth Leatherdale is an illustrated book presenting five true stories of young people who survived the harrowing experience of setting off in boats in search of asylum.

 

How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Uwiringiyimana and Abigail Pesta is the memoir of a girl from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who survived a massacre, immigrated to the United States, and struggled to overcome her trauma through art and activism.

 

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ismael Beah offers a first-hand account of a young man’s recruitment as a child soldier, release, and eventual rehabilitation at a UNICEF center.

 

Outcasts United: An American Town, A Refugee Team, and One Woman’s Quest to Make a Difference

By Warren St. John is an excellent and engaging story of a refugee youth soccer team in a small southern town turned upside down by the process of refugee resettlement. (Note that there is a young adult version of the book).

 

And now, two documentaries:

 

Human Flow was shot over the course of one year in 23 countries. It shares stories of the more than 65 million people who have been forced from their homes since World War II

 

Fire at Sea explores life in Lampedusa, Italy, an island has become a landing spot for boats filled with refugees fleeing Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

download (1)

 

“The simplest thing: Become a friend to refugees.”

Ready to take action? Let’s follow Alan’s advice and start local!

 

There are many agencies that work officially to resettle refugees nationwide. Contacting one of the agencies working in your community is a good place to start. To find out who’s working in your area, check out this UNHCR website and then click on the link toward the bottom:

 

While these local resettlement agencies always can use supplies and material support, the best way to get involved is to build relationships and friendships.  Many local communities have innovative non-profits and community groups that foster this work.  Make sure to ask your local refugee resettlement agencies about these sorts of groups and opportunities in your area. Here are some examples in my community of metro-Atlanta:

 

Friends of Refugees

 

Global Village Project

 

Clarkston Community Center

 

Of course, if we start to open our eyes, as Alan Gratz is urging us to do, we will realize that refugees are our neighbors and our classmates. Refugees worship with us, shop in the same stores as us, and play sports on the same fields. The best thing we can do is make new friends. It’s that easy!

 

“A desperate, dangerous attempt to find refuge in America” A Call to Action NOW.

 

One final note, because this weighs so heavy on my heart…

 

Even though this book is entitled Refugee, all of the stories Alan tells are, technically, those of asylum seekers. (If you’d like to better understand the difference, listen to this recent NPR interview with a U.S. Asylum Officer). Asylum seekers with similar stories to those we read about in Refugee are in the news headlines these days for reasons that are simply unthinkable. Last month, the United States Department of Homeland Security instituted a new practice that routinely separates child asylum seekers from their parents and holds them in child detention centers. One, recently opened in El Paso, is quite literally a tent city.

 

Families_3_twitterWhile I don’t generally climb up on a soapbox in these newsletters, I’m gonna do it now. I believe there is a moral imperative for every single one of us to resist this action by the U.S. government.  It simply contradicts basic human decency, and it’s heartbreaking.

 

If you want to learn more about this and take action, follow #KeepFamiliesTogether and #FamiliesBelongTogether. You also can check out the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights to stay informed about proposed legislation and actions in your community, and go to Families Belong Together (a movement sponsored by the National Domestic Workers Alliance) to sign a petition and find other actions.

 

Thank you.

 

#ReadForChange with Refugee!

 

If you can’t wait to get your hands on REFUGEE, here’s your chance!  Follow this link to the giveaway, which runs until the end of June. We’ll be announcing the winner on Twitter @MarieFMarquardt and Instagram marie_marquardt July 1!)

 

Meet Marie Marquardt

Women’s March, January 21, 2017

Women’s March, January 21, 2017

Marie Marquardt is the author of three YA novels: The Radius of UsDream Things True, and Flight Season. A Scholar-in-Residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, Marie also has published several articles and co-authored two non-fiction books about Latin American immigration to the U.S. South. She is chair of El Refugio, a non-profit that serves detained immigrants and their families. She lives with her spouse, four kids, a dog and a bearded dragon in the book-lover’s mecca of Decatur, Georgia.

Sunday Reflections: Where are the children?

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When she was two, The Teen and I were shopping at Sears when Things 2 suddenly disappeared. In a panic, I began running around the store calling for her. Each moment that she was missing the intensity of my panic increased. I ran. I screamed. I shouted. I searched.

Soon, recognizing my distress, others joined in on the search. The store itself was just about to shut it all down and call a Code Adam when we found Thing 2 hiding in one of the clothing racks.

I’ve thought about this story a lot in the past couple of days as news came out that our government had lost almost 1,500 children. I thought about this story as I read about how ICE agents were separating children from their parents as they crossed the border into our country seeking asylum. I thought about the panic that I felt. I thought about the fear. I thought about the growing anguish. Please note, although both of these reports are about issues relating to immigrant children, they are separate news stories. It should also be noted that not all of this has just recently started happening, some of the reports go back to 2015 and 2016.

As ICE separates children from parents at the border, public outrage grows

I think, too, of a friend of mine that just lost their adult son in their twenties. I think about the incredible grief that they are experiencing. About the ways that their lives have shut down. About the ways their life will never be the same.

US lost track of 1,500 undocumented children

I think about the long term effects of childhood trauma. Of all the teens that come and visit us in the Teen MakerSpace and just the ways that divorce or having a parent incarcerated has and will continue to effect them.

Trump on Abused Immigrant Children: “They’re Not Innocent”

And I think of what it must be like to be a parent trying to bring your children to a safer country. To a country where you hope that you can escape violence or dream of a future where your child can get an education, a job, a house with a wife and two cars and a garage. But when you arrive there, strangers rip your child from your arms. They place your children in cages that resemble dog kennels at the dog pound. And then they lose them.

Abusive Conditions for Women and Children in US Immigration

Reports have said that some of these children are being trafficked.

U.S. Placed Immigrant Children With Traffickers, Report Says

Other reports say that some of these children are being sexually assaulted.

ACLU Report: Detained Immigrant Children Subjected To Widespread Abuse by Border AGents

All of these children are being traumatized.

The Federal Government Lost 1,475 Immigrant Children | Teen Vogue

Whatever is happening, all of these children are being traumatized. I said it twice because it’s really important that we understand what we are doing to a generation of children.

Childhood Trauma : Long-Term Effects and Symptoms

This is not the first time in our country’s history that this has happened. During slavery, children were ripped from the arms of their parents and sold off as property. Native American children were taken from their parents on reservations and placed into boarding schools to “tame” them. Japanese Americans and their children were placed in concentration camps during World War II.

No, the idea that we can be cruel to children is not a new one to our nation, and yet I find myself stunned at the recent news. I routinely read about bias and how even as young as kindergarten and preschool our nation’s children who happen to be anything other than white can be singled out, disproportionately punished, called on to participate less frequently and more. I don’t want to romanticize how our country treats its children. I don’t want to act shocked or stunned that this is happening. History has shown us who we are and what we are capable of doing.

And yet, there is something about this story that takes us to a place that I can not fathom. I can not fathom as a mother or a Christian or as a compassionate human being how anyone can rationalize ripping a crying child from the arms of a screaming parent, placing them into a cage, and then . . . losing them. I can not imagine government agents handing children over to traffickers. I can not imagine anyone doing the various things that I have read that our government and its agents are in fact doing to children.

I can not fathom as someone who has spent their lives learning about the development of children and advocating for their well being how anyone in a position of power that is supposed to care about people, represent the people, and put policies into place that provide for the well being of our country can think anything about this is a good or acceptable idea. These policies and practices will scar a generation of children and we will be left to pick up the pieces.

And please, do not suggest to me that since these children are not American citizens that we don’t have some type of obligation to them. Children are the most vulnerable among us and we have an obligation to all of the world’s children to do the least harm possible to them. Whatever is happening in the world of adult politics, if we can’t even agree to do our very best to take care of children, then we have genuinely lost the plot. The very basic tenant of very basic humanity should be that we do everything we can to nurture and protect children. It’s not even a selfless act, to be honest, what happens to each generation of children effects the adults they will become and the future of not just them, but our country, of our world. They will soon be our doctors, our lawyers, our teachers and our policy makers. What we are doing has immediate and long term implications. It really is that dire.

The long term effects of childhood trauma include physical health issues, mental health issues, substance abuse, and troubles bonding and forming meaningful relationships. It shapes their view of self and their view of the world. It impacts who they are and who they will become. There is both a high human and dollar cost associated with childhood trauma.

I thought we had all agreed that at a bare minimum, we all had an obligation to the least of these, the most vulnerable among us, our children.

Today I am celebrating 23 years of marriage to The Mr. All together, we have been together for a quarter of a century. That’s a really long time. We have had some really rough moments: we lost a child in pregnancy, we lost a house to a flood and an economic crisis, we’ve lost friends and family members, and there are times when we didn’t know how we were going to feed our children and pay our bills, but at the end of the day, I get to come home to this lovely man and two amazing children whom I richly adore. I can’t imagine any of the things happening to my children that I have read about in the last two days. And as my heart celebrates my blessings, it also aches because I look at what my country is doing to someone else’s children and I am angry, afraid, and heartbroken.

Today I will celebrate with my family and snuggle my children. Somewhere else, there are parents who had their children taken away by the U.S. government and its agents and no one can tell them where those children are.

This can not be acceptable for any of us.

Book Review: Flight Season by Marie Marquardt

Publisher’s description

flightFrom Marie Marquardt, the author of Dream Things True and The Radius of Us, comes a story of two teenagers learning what to hold on to, what to let go of, and that sometimes love gets in the way of our plans.

Back when they were still strangers, TJ Carvalho witnessed the only moment in Vivi Flannigan’s life when she lost control entirely. Now, TJ can’t seem to erase that moment from his mind, no matter how hard he tries. Vivi doesn’t remember any of it, but she’s determined to leave it far behind. And she will.

But when Vivi returns home from her first year away at college, her big plans and TJ’s ambition to become a nurse land them both on the heart ward of a university hospital, facing them with a long and painful summer together – three months of glorified babysitting for Ángel, the problem patient on the hall. Sure, Ángel may be suffering from a life-threatening heart infection, but that doesn’t make him any less of a pain.

As it turns out, though, Ángel Solís has a thing or two to teach them about all those big plans, and the incredible moments when love gets in their way.

Written in alternating first person from the perspectives of all three characters, Flight Season is a story about discovering what’s really worth holding onto, learning how to let go of the rest, and that one crazy summer that changes your life forever.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

I am always a fan of slightly older YA characters, as we don’t see a ton of them. I was pleased to see that this novel takes place the summer after Vivi’s first year of college, and I bet teen readers will be drawn to that, too.

Vivi graduated high school as valedictorian, with a 4.9 GPA, and headed to Yale. Now, one year later, her life is a mess. She’s on academic probation and desperately needs this summer internship at a university hospital if she has any hope of remaining a student at Yale. Things are not off to an auspicious start, as Vivi realizes she has a “weak constitution” and can’t stand the sight of any bodily fluids or medical procedures. That might complicate her whole plan to become a doctor. She and her mother are staying in Florida at a friend’s beach house. Her mother bills it as a fun change of scenery, something they both need, in light of Vivi’s dad’s recent death. But it’s more than that: since his death, her mother has fallen apart. She hasn’t been paying the bills and they basically have no money left. Suddenly Vivi, who has never wanted for anything, has to come to terms with the reality of their new situation and get a paying job in addition to her internship.

Then there’s the issue of TJ. They work together at the hospital and Vivi finds him both completely frustrating and totally attractive. TJ juggles the hospital with studying to be a nurse and working at his family’s Brazilian restaurant. Circumstances put them together more than they expected to be and make them unable to deny what is unfolding between them.

The third narrator of the story,  Ángel Solis, is a Guatemalan teenager in the hospital with a heart infection. Ángel helps bring TJ and Vivi together, and all three come to learn more about each other, their backgrounds, their differences, and their similarities.

This moving, well-written story examines tough topics like grief, loss, immigration, privilege, and illness. It’s a slow-burn romance, but also a great and lovely look at friendship. Complex, beautiful, heartbreaking, and surprisingly joyful, this enjoyable read successfully presents three narrators who have such standout voices and bring so much to the story and one another’s lives. A great read. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781250107015
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication date: 02/20/2018

 

Immigration in the News and in YA Lit

You can’t escape it if you watch or read the news – everyone is talking about immigration. I grew up in Southern California and now live in Texas, so I have always heard people talking about it. Always. But it’s not something that I have read a lot about in YA literature. It comes up occasionally, but not to the degree that people seem to be talking about it at the present time, and often with very heated and harmful rhetoric. But when we talk about immigration, I can’t help but think – these are MY teens you are talking about.

In June of this year, two Texas valedictorians revealed that they were undocumented, and the reaction to that news quickly became very heated. Undocumented teens are often referred to as “Dreamers”, and we as a country are wrestling with how to approach the issue of dreamers. Dreamers may be granted citizenship through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Over 750, 000 have received DACA since 2012. You can find more information about this here. This is just one of the many controversial discussions that our nation is having regarding the topic of immigration in the media. You can also read about the inspiration for the DREAMERS movement in the book Spare Parts.

Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream by Joshua Davis

sparepartsPublisher’s Book Description

In 2004, four Latino teenagers arrived at the Marine Advanced Technology Education Robotics Competition at the University of California, Santa Barbara. They were born in Mexico but raised in Phoenix, Arizona, where they attended an underfunded public high school. No one had ever suggested to Oscar, Cristian, Luis, or Lorenzo that they might amount to much—but two inspiring science teachers had convinced these impoverished, undocumented kids from the desert who had never even seen the ocean that they should try to build an underwater robot.


And build a robot they did. Their robot wasn’t pretty, especially compared to those of the competition. They were going up against some of the best collegiate engineers in the country, including a team from MIT backed by a $10,000 grant from ExxonMobil. The Phoenix teenagers had scraped together less than $1,000 and built their robot out of scavenged parts. This was never a level competition—and yet, against all odds . . . they won!


But this is just the beginning for these four, whose story—which became a key inspiration to the DREAMers movement—will go on to include first-generation college graduations, deportation, bean-picking in Mexico, and service in Afghanistan.


Joshua Davis’s Spare Parts is a story about overcoming insurmountable odds and four young men who proved they were among the most patriotic and talented Americans in this country—even as the country tried to kick them out. (FSG 2014)

 

You can find some previous book lists about immigration here:

Ten Young Adult Books that Reflect the US Immigration Experience

YA Novels About Immigration – Latina

But I want to make sure two upcoming titles are on your radar, one of which is one of my favorite books of 2016 (the other I haven’t read yet).

Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz

somethinginbetweenPublisher’s Book Description

Who am I? Where do I belong? 

Jasmine de los Santos has always done what’s expected of her. Pretty and popular, she’s studied hard, made her Filipino immigrant parents proud and is ready to reap the rewards in the form of a full college scholarship.

And then everything shatters. A national scholar award invitation compels her parents to reveal the truth: their visas expired years ago. Her entire family is illegal. That means no scholarships, maybe no college at all and the very real threat of deportation.

For the first time, Jasmine rebels, trying all those teen things she never had time for in the past. Even as she’s trying to make sense of her new world, it’s turned upside down by Royce Blakely, the charming son of a high-ranking congressman. Jasmine no longer has any idea where—or if—she fits into the American Dream. All she knows is that she’s not giving up. Because when the rules you lived by no longer apply, the only thing to do is make up your own. 

This is the one that I haven’t read yet. It comes out in October from Harlequin Teen.

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

the sun is also a starPublisher’s Book Description

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?

Karen’s Thoughts

I love this book so much. The love story is beautiful, though I’m not typically a fan of the falling in love in 24 hours type of story. Yoon’s writing is just engaging and compelling. And if ever there was a book written for our current zeitgeist, this is it. Here are two teens searching for a sense of self and security in a world plagued by various forms of racism and, in the case of Natasha, the uncertainty that comes with being a child of a family on the brink of being deported. The Teen also read this book and it is also one of her favorites of 2016. It’s a thoughtful, moving story.

If books help readers to develop empathy, and I believe that they do, then it is important for those of us who have no idea what it is like to be an undocumented teen or a teen who is worried about losing the only home they have ever known to read books so we can get an idea of what that may be like. It’s easy to look at a number and make broadly sweeping generalizations, but it’s important to remember that behind those numbers are real people. Books help us zoom in, to move past a number and to see the people behind the numbers with focus and clarity. And for those teens who identify as dreamers, they can validate their fears and struggles and give them a voice.

Book Review: Joyride by Anna Banks

joyrideIn Joyride, by Anna Banks, Carly and Arden find themselves falling for each other, against all odds. 16-year-old Carly Vega works the graveyard shift at a local gas station. She turns over all of her earnings to her older brother, Julio, as they work hard to pull together enough money to smuggle their parents and two young siblings across the border from Mexico. Arden is a seemingly carefree slacker and the son of the local sheriff, a well-known racist (and one of the most odious adults I’ve encountered in a YA book in a long time). The two come together after elderly (and often drunk) gas station regular Mr. Shackelford is held up at gunpoint outside of the store one night while Carly is working. The assailant? Arden—Shackelford’s great-nephew.

 

Like all things Arden does, he had his reasons—he just wanted to scare his uncle into no longer driving home drunk. Carly is not impressed by this reasoning, or Arden in general, though it’s clear he’s instantly smitten with her. He pursues her, but she doesn’t have time for his hijinks. She quite literally does not have time for him—she works a lot of hours at the gas station, goes to school (often on little to no sleep), and hopes her grades will earn her some scholarships. Her brother and her parents fail to see the importance of school; to them, the important thing is working as much as possible to save money to help reunite their family. Carly understands this, and certainly does her part, but she’s determined to do well in school and be the first person in her family to go to college.

 

Possibly against her better judgment, Carly begins hanging out with Arden and eventually realizes trying to talk herself out of her feelings for him is pointless. Arden proves to be far deeper than he appears, something Carly sees as she learns about his schizophrenic sister who committed suicide a year ago, his grieving and pill-addled mother, and his absolutely awful father. But Carly still feels the gulf between them is too wide—he just can’t understand why she needs to work so much… mostly because she doesn’t tell him about her family’s situation. The stakes are raised big time when Arden’s father catches them making out. He says a whole load of disgustingly racist and outrageous things and demands they stay away from each other. Meanwhile, Carly and Julio have earned enough to pay for their family to be smuggled out of Mexico ($60,000). But things don’t go as planned. Carly and Arden get arrested, the sheriff makes it clear that they are not allowed to ever acknowledge each other again, and a GIANT plot twist throws everything into total uncertainty and chaos. The drama, risks, and retribution amp up like mad and it’s hard to know what will happen or how things will end.

 

This story of opposite attracting is an important one. It is not often that we see close examinations of immigration or the lives of teens like Carly. The characters are well-drawn and exude personality. The family issues at play are complicated–-relationships teem with grief, expectation, disappointment, and tension. Readers will root for Arden and Carly, even as they face almost unimaginable (to many) obstacles and differences. Far deeper and more suspenseful than I expected just from the cover and the flap copy, I couldn’t put it down, especially once Banks ramped up the stakes around the time of the arrest. This is a great addition to all collections.

 

Readers who enjoy this and are looking for another book about immigration should also pick up Maria E. Andreu’s The Secret Side of Empty (Running Press Book Publishers, 2014).

 

ISBN-13: 9781250039613

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Publication date: 6/2/2015