A Land of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi

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A Land of Permanent Goodbyes
Author: Atia Abawi
Published: January 23, 2018 by Philomel

Guest Review by Rachel Krieger

Summary: In a country ripped apart by war, Tareq lives with his big and loving family . . . until the bombs strike. His city is in ruins. His life is destroyed. And those who have survived are left to figure out their uncertain future.

In the wake of destruction, he’s threatened by Daesh fighters and witnesses a public beheading. Tareq’s family knows that to continue to stay alive, they must leave. As they travel as refugees from Syria to Turkey to Greece, facing danger at every turn, Tareq must find the resilience and courage to complete his harrowing journey.

But while this is one family’s story, it is also the timeless tale of all wars, of all tragedy, and of all strife. When you are a refugee, success is outliving your loss.

Review: This book is astonishing. In a world where people like to avoid talking about awkward things or situations that make us sad, this novel is completely, unapologetically honest. With every horror that Tareq experiences, you will find yourself crying with him, hoping with him, and loving with him. You will wish you could be with Alexia helping these people to find new lives. It is impossible to read Abawi’s story without reflecting on your own life, wondering what destiny would write about you.

If you know nothing about the refugee crises happening all over the world, this story will give you a glimpse into the lives of people struggling every day. Although it only looks into the lives of a few refugees, it gave me an idea of how different the life of a refugee is to my own. Atia Abawi’s story will make you reflect on your own humanity and actions, changing the way you think about the world and your own privilege.

Teacher’s Tool For Navigation: This is the perfect book to start a discussion about the situation in Syria. Since it is so essential to address current events regardless of the sensitive nature of those events, teachers should start conversations about this war-torn region. There are many young adult novels that address immigration, however, this one specifically follows the process of that immigration. It would be very beneficial to have students read a book like this and a book like American Street to look at very different stories of immigration with a few similar characteristics. This book in conjunction with others about immigration could be the perfect opportunity to discuss the idea of the danger of a single story.

This novel also offers a very interesting twist on narration. Since destiny is the narrator of this novel rather than one of the characters, there are small parts of the story that reflect broadly on war and humanity. It could be interesting to have students think about how this odd source of narration changes the story. They could even experiment with their own unique narrators, discussing how these odd points of view add or detract from stories.

Discussion Questions: What does the perspective switch add to the novel? Do you think a book like this is likely to encourage people to support this cause? How does Destiny as the narrator change this story? How would this story change if Tareq was a woman?

We Flagged: “Making it to Germany ended Tareq’s crossing and escape from war, but his new life as a refugee is just beginning. There are millions of Tareq’s, Susans and Fayeds, all in search of safety and kindness. I hope you will provide that warmth, be that helper, do what you can to make that world a better place. Because when I meet you—and I will—there will be reckoning. There always is.”

Read This If You Loved: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Supetys, American Street by Ibi Zoboi, Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert

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The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

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the sun is also a star

The Sun Is Also a Star
Author: Nicola Yoon
Published: November 1, 2016 by Delacorte

Summary: 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?

My Review: This book shines brightly. It is more than a love story. The description of the text doesn’t quite do it justice. While reading Nicola Yoon’s words, I thought of politics, I thought of the universe, I thought of science, and I thought of culture. Natasha and Daniel have a lot of baggage, and their family histories have formed who they are. Both are strong characters who want to be better than some of the mistakes their family members have made. I appreciated the depth of this text.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I love talking about immigration in the classroom because it is a great opportunity for powerful discussions. I would love to talk about Natasha’s situation and students’ opinions about it. This might allow students an opportunity to look at immigration laws and how they impact others.

Throughout the text, Yoon provides snippets of other characters’ lives. These snippets impact the narrators, and it would be interesting to discuss how each snipped changes the way we read the story.

Discussion Questions: Is Natasha’s father entirely wrong in his approach to life? Can you find some redemption in his poor decisions?; Do you believe in fate? How can we tie this story to science?; Does Natasha’s family deserve to go home? Do you think they should be allowed to stay in the United States of America?; What role does Daniel’s father play in the development of the story?

Flagged Passage: “There’s a Japanese phrase that I like: koi no yokan. It doesn’t mean love at first sight. It’s closer to love at second sight. It’s the feeling when you meet someone that you’re going to fall in love with them. Maybe you don’t love them right away, but it’s inevitable that you will.”

Read This Book If You Loved: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon; Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell; The Secret Side of Empty by Maria E. Andreu

 

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The Secret Side of Empty by Maria E. Andreu

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the secret side of empty

The Secret Side of Empty
Author: Maria E. Andreu
Published: March 11, 2014 by Running Press

Summary: As a straight-A student with a budding romance and loyal best friend, M.T.’s life seems as apple-pie American as her blondish hair and pale skin. But M.T. hides two facts to the contrary: her full name of Monserrat Thalia and her status as an undocumented immigrant.

But it’s harder to hide now that M.T.’s a senior. Her school’s National Honor Society wants her to plan their trip abroad, her best friend won’t stop bugging her to get her driver’s license, and all everyone talks about is where they want to go to college. M.T. is pretty sure she can’t go to college, and with high school ending and her family life unraveling, she’s staring down a future that just seems empty. In the end, M.T. will need to trust herself and others to stake a claim in the life that she wants.

Author Maria E. Andreu draws from her personal experience as a (formerly) undocumented immigrant to explore an issue that affects over one million children in the U.S. But while the subject matter is timely, it is M.T.’s sharp, darkly funny voice and longing for a future that makes this story universally poignant.

My Review: In the last year, I have met many people who have told me that they were or are undocumented immigrants. Immigration reform is a hot topic in politics right now, and I can’t help but wonder if people are thinking about others in terms of their humanity. I’ve become increasingly heavy-hearted as I have listened to speeches about immigration, and I longed to learn more about the topic. After searching news articles, research studies, statistics, and government websites, I felt that I needed more story, and so I picked up this book from the library. It received excellent reviews, and I understand why. The author draws upon her personal experiences as a formerly undocumented immigrant, and the narrator, M. T., feels very real. I learned about some of the struggles undocumented immigrants experience, and I am grateful for all that I learned from this book. M. T. deals with other complex issues beyond her immigrant status—relationship issues, domestic abuse, and contemplations of suicide. There is so much to discuss regarding the text. I loved the book and am so glad I found it. I highly recommend it.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This is a fantastic book to discuss undocumented immigrants with students. It would be wonderful to help students consider aspects of immigration reform and explore other perspectives. The author is featured in this article about Donald Trump.

Discussion Questions: How might the author’s perspective have influenced her work?; What do you learn about immigration? How does this influence, change, or solidify your beliefs?; How does M. T.’s relationship with Nate evolve? Do you agree with everything he did?; Did M. T. make the right decision to leave home? Why or why not?

Flagged Passage: I will always be a stranger everywhere. With my parents, I am too American. With Americans, I am a spectator with my nose pressed against their windowpanes, watching their weird rituals and rites of passage, never quite understanding them completely. A little chunk of me will always be a stranger everywhere, different chunks of stranger in different situations. (p. 98).

Read This Book If You Loved: Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez, Ask Me No Questions by Marina Budhos, Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok, Illegal by Bettina Restrepo

 

Recommended For: 

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  RickiSig

Modern Immigrant Experience in Fiction Picture Books: Tía Isa Wants a Car by Meg Medina & A Piece of Home by Jeri Watts

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These two fiction picture books look at modern immigrant experiences from two different lenses; however, they both have one thing in common–search for identity in a new home.

a piece of home

A Piece of Home
Author: Jeri Watts
Illustrator: Hyewon Yum
Published June 14th, 2016 by Candlewick Press

Summary: A child-friendly story about the trials and triumphs of starting over in a new place while keeping family and traditions close.

When Hee Jun’s family moves from Korea to West Virginia, he struggles to adjust to his new home. His eyes are not big and round like his classmates’, and he can’t understand anything the teacher says, even when she speaks s-l-o-w-l-y and loudly at him. As he lies in bed at night, the sky seems smaller and darker. But little by little Hee Jun begins to learn English words and make friends on the playground. And one day he is invited to a classmate’s house, where he sees a flower he knows from his garden in Korea — mugunghwa, or rose of Sharon, as his friend tells him — and Hee Jun is happy to bring a shoot to his grandmother to plant a “piece of home” in their new garden. Lyrical prose and lovely illustrations combine in a gentle, realistic story about finding connections in an unfamiliar world.

My Thoughts: I love the way Hee Jun’s story is told–full of emotions. It is so realistic and a story that so many students will relate to. The story also highlights the struggles and success of all the members of Hee Juns family including his sister and grandmother. And the conclusion of the story will warm your heart!

tia isa

Tía Isa Wants a Car
Author: Meg Medina
Illustrator: Claudio Muñoz
Published June 14th, 2011 by Candlewick Press

Summary: A little girl pitches in to help her tía save up for a big old car – and take the whole family to the beach – in a story told with warmth and sweetness.

Tía Isa wants a car. A shiny green car the same color as the ocean, with wings like a swooping bird. A car to take the whole family to the beach. But saving is hard when everything goes into two piles – one for here and one for Helping Money, so that family members who live far away might join them someday. While Tía Isa saves, her niece does odd jobs for neighbors so she can add her earnings to the stack. But even with her help, will they ever have enough? Meg Medina’s simple, genuine story about keeping in mind those who are far away is written in lovely, lyrical prose and brought to life through Claudio Muñoz’s charming characters.

My Thoughts: Tía Isa symbolizes all people who move to a new place and have something they want and they go and get it. Even as they save money to send to their family who has yet to join them, Tía Isa and her niece save money for their dream and independence which to them is a car to be able to visit the beach like Tía Isa did at home. This book will touch anyone who has fought financially or without family and have survived!

What other picture books highlight the modern immigrant experience? 

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**Thank you to Candlewick Press for providing copies of the books!**

Brave Girl by Michelle Markel

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NF PB 2013

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

brave

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909
Author: Michelle Markel
Illustrator: Melissa Sweet
Published January 22nd, 2013 by Balzer + Bray

Summary: Clara and her family immigrated to New York. They were searching for the American dream. When her father could not find a job, Clara quit school and became a garment worker to support her family. The conditions at her factory were appalling: low wages, unfair rules, and locks on the door. After discussions between the workers, Clara helps urge the girls to fight for their rights.

Review: I am sucker for this biographical picture book for two reasons: 1) I had not known about the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 before and I love learning about new historical moments. I know that it interested me (as I know it would for kids), because after I read the additional information about the garment industry I was on the internet searching for more information. 2) Clara is such a great example of girl power! AND she is a historical figure that shows girls (and boys) that girls can stand up for themselves when they are not being treated well (in real life). I love that she overcame so much to not only stand up for her rights, but also to get an education and take care of her family. What an amazing person to learn about.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: The main way that I would use this book is as a read aloud. It will definitely cause a great discussion and may push students to do further research. It would also be a perfect read aloud for a unit on women’s rights, immigration, overcoming obstacles, girl power, labor laws, or the early 1900s to help make connections to history. 

Discussion Questions: Do you think that Clara continuing her education helped her in being able to fight for her labor rights?; Clara made a tough decision between continuing school during the day or working. Do you agree or disagree with her decision? Why or why not? How did her decision affect her life?; What caused the garment workers to strike?

We Flagged: “But Clara is uncrushable. She wants to read, she wants to learn! At the end of her shift, though her eyes hurt from straining in the gaslight and her back hurts from hunching over the sewing machine, she walks to the library. She fills her empty stomach with a single glass of milk and goes to school at night. When she gets home in the late evening, she sleeps only a few hours before rising again.” (p. 12-13)

To see a preview of the illustrations, visit Amazon’s “Look Inside” for Brave Girl.

Read This If You Loved: Here Comes the Girl Scouts! by Shana Corey, The Price of Freedom by Dennis Brindell Fradin, Boycott Blues by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Annie and Helen by Deborah Hopkinson

Recommended for: 

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Who is a female historical figure who shows as much girl power as Clara that you believe should be talked about more?

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