Illustrated by Michael Sloan
In the Fall of 2016, the Aldabaan family receives word that they have been approved to travel from Jordan to the United States. Brothers Ibrahim and Issa are able to emigrate with their families, but they are leaving behind their mother and another brother and family. This is after they have all fled war-torn Syria. The eldest son, Naji, can't wait for the family to start their new lives in the United States, but the political climate has Ibrahim and his wife, Adeebah, unsure of what they're going in to. Once in Connecticut, they receive help from IRIS, a refugee resettlement agency, and told that they need to become self-sufficient within four months. The whole family adjusts to oddities of America, such as basements and Life Alert. Naji and his sister, Amal, start school and are treated as outcasts. The family constantly wonders if they've really left behind the worse life.
My heart is breaking after reading this book. This is such a powerful and important story, and a great way to build empathy. For those who supported the Travel Bans or any other policies limiting refugees, I would hand them this book as an example of how public policy impacts decisions and lives of real people.
At the beginning of this story, Ibrahim and his brothers are faced with the difficult decision of leaving their elderly mother in Jordan.
Imagine receiving this text message from your parent. Politics aside, this would be devastating to most people to know that when they got on the plane, destined for a better life, they were saying goodbye for the last time without knowing it.
This story is also an important empathy-builder even for those who thing they are doing the best they can. In the story, the family has help from a refugee resettlement group, who send tutors to help the kids learn their English. As a person who works with students, I know I'm guilty of calling them all kids at some point, but many of them, not just refugees, have had such experiences that wouldn't qualify them as children anymore. Acknowledging the struggles someone has endured before you met them is so important.
The illustrations are a little basic, but powerful. The focus is very much so on the family and their beginning days of resettlement, and the illustrations serve as a humanizing element to the words spoken by each person. While the drawings may seem to be plain, each character is individual and nuanced, so I never had trouble telling any of them apart.
Yes, there is some political conversation included here as it relates to the policies on immigration and refugees, but that should not keep it out of libraries, even in conservative areas.
Sara's Rating: 10/10
Suitability Level: Grades 9-12
Tags: Rating: 10/10, Suitability: High School, Graphic Nonfiction, Biography, Memoir, War
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