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The Colors of My Words

By Marlyse Ngouabe, sixth grade student at Alice Deal Junior High, Washington, D.C. 

Have you ever had to leave your town and immigrate to an unknown land, just because the government wants to make financial gain by selling off your land to large companies? This is the struggle of the whole town of Sosua in the Dominican Republic, the tumultuous setting of the novel, The Colors of My Word by Lynn Joseph.

Narrated through the perspective of a young girl, Ana Rosa, the novel opens with a private conversation between Ana and her mother, in which Ana talks about what she wants to become when she grows up -- a writer. In this conversation, Ana’s mother warns her that being a writer is dangerous in the Dominican Republic because only the president is allowed to write. But Ana is determined to use her talent to help her family and to fight for what is right.  

Ana writes poignant poems about how the Sosua community has never felt hopeless or powerless in the face of the government’s belittlement as it was removing citizens from their homes. The citizens decide to fight back. They throw bottles and set tires on fire. In the midst of these anti-government demonstrations, innocent lives are lost, including a family member very close to Ana. Using the power of her words, she shames the citizens of Sosua for their violent protests that resulted in untimely deaths.  

After the violent outbreaks, Ana continuously blames herself for her family member’s death. She decides to punish herself by not writing a single word again. But in an emotional twist, on her birthday she receives a typewriter and is determined to tell her deceased family member’s story.  

It becomes clear that the people living in Sousa have a choice to make: to stay or to immigrate and escape an oppressive government.Read more...

Year Released: 2016

Book Review of Untwine by Edwidge Danticat

The accident, which opens the novel, is enough to get any reader — young or old— hooked on its plot. The blend of lyrical, poetic language with the at times sarcastic, witty teenage dialogue keeps it fresh and uniquely told. Untwine by Edwidge Danticat is a novel that probes fantastically into identity, loss, grief, and resilience with a gripping storyline.  

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Year Released: 2016

New Book Examines Lincoln’s Personal Relationships With Immigrants

This book review written by Patrick Young originally appeared on Long Island Wins.  Read the original review and “The Immigrants’ Civil War,” an educational blog series by Young that examines the role of immigrant in our nation’s bloodiest war.”

There are more biographies of Lincoln than of any other American. Twice as many books have been published about Lincoln as about George Washington. Of the six thousand Lincoln biographies, not one is devoted to his relationship with immigrants, until now.

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Year Released: 2015

Three Books by Dinaw Mengestu to Explore the Immigration Experience with Students

As educators, one of the great joys is introducing students to fiction that allows students to see themselves in characters they thought were nothing like them and which they shared little in common. It is one of the most effective ways to teach empathy, broaden understanding, and disprove stereotypes. It is the stuff of “a-ha” moments, meaningful connections that transcend the classroom, and Dinaw Mengestu’s novels are ripe with these potential moments for high school students. His character-driven narratives highlight the universal tensions between home and displacement, loss and renewal, as explored in the migration experience. Read more...

Year Released: 2015

There Are At Least 187 Reasons to Read Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera

Author: Juan Felipe Herrera

Juan Felipe Herrera’s 187 Reasons Mexicans Can’t Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971-2007 is meant to be political and personal, provocative and soothing, historical and imaginative. Covering 36 years of Herrera’s creative work, this book is as much a hybrid of genres, languages, and styles as it is a blend of Mexican-American cultures and identities. It asks the question of what it means to be Mexican as it also asks what it means to be American. The physical and cultural borders of ethnic identity explored in this work offer multiple representations of individual and collective Mexican-American identities. In particular, the selected poems can be a wonderful tool for helping provide a historical context for older students as they examine current immigration issues in the media. Read more...

Year Released: 2015

Juan Felipe Herrera Offers Insight into the Migrant Farmworker Experience for Youth

Author: Juan Felipe Herrera

Recently, I excitingly told my young daughters we were going to wake up early and go berry picking at a “pick your own” farm. My three year old exclaimed “I don’t want to pick berries at a farm I want to pick them at a store.” Although it was funny, it made me realize how disconnected we are as a society to our food sources and the nameless people who make it possible for us to have fresh fruits and vegetables on our tables.  Read more...

Year Released: 2015

Book Review for Homesickness: An American History by Susan J. Matt

In a nation that’s been around for over 200 years, a surprising number of Americans still trace their ancestry to the countries where their families immigrated from before they came to the U.S.  Among the many persistent myths of U.S. immigration, is the one of eternal optimism and relentless enthusiasm despite the hard work and formidable distances from home.  Yet few likely consider what their ancestors went through emotionally when leaving behind their birthplace and all things familiar to them to make a home in the United States.  Historian Susan J. Matt discusses this in her book Homesickness: An American History. Matt chronicles how Americans from the early settlers to the present have long missed home – even as, in more recent centuries, they encourage dismissing this feeling of persistent longing. Read more...

Year Released: 2015

Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story

Author: Paula Yoo

Winner of the Carter G. Woodson Book Award presented to exemplary books written for children each year, Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story is another top-notch biography by Paula Yoo, who also wrote the popular Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds. Shining Star tells the little-known story of Anna May Wong, a Chinese-American born at the turn of the century. Read more...

Year Released: 2015

Building Diverse and Inclusive School Communities

Author: Eileen Gale Kugler

Told in a series of well-researched, first-person narratives, Eileen Gale Kugler’s book, Innovative Voices in Education: Engaging Diverse Communities, stands out for its honest and multi-layered approach to building diverse and inclusive school communities. Read more...

Year Released: 2015

Book Review: Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel by Anya Ullnich

Graphic novels are not just for students. Although the genre tends to appeal to a younger audience, some authors such as Anya Ullnich, who writes for an older audience, uses the genre in order to literally illustrate the complexity of her personal immigration story.

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Year Released: 2015