Hi everyone, this first week will feature a booklist post of contemporary migrant reads that I have enjoyed over the last few years. The main characters in these reads are a group of strong, courageous, and diverse young people who deserve to have their names highlighted here!! So, if you want to find out who they are, press the button below and enjoy reading this post…
To begin with I must let you know that I might have reviewed a few of these titles before in earlier posts. All of these titles feature a tween who has had to migrate with their family to another country due to changes in their own country or some other reasons. Shall we begin then…
This first title, Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai, was actually one of my first reads where I encountered refugees. Our main character is a young boy Fadi, and tells of his life in America as his family adjusts to life there despite missing his six-year-old sister, Mariam, who had been lost in Afghanistan. I found this read a poignant and heart-rending story as we hear of Fadi’s experiences with the bullying that follows from the events of September 11. Senzai bases this story from the experiences of her own husband when he fled Soviet-controlled Afghanistan in 1979 and has created a masterpiece of the migrant experience from the unique voice of young Fadi. I really enjoyed this book even though it had me in tears most of the way!!
The next read is also another read that brought my attention to another serious topic. Gaby, lost and found by Angela Cervantes tells the story of undocumented migrants and deportation, a topic that can be found in much of todays news. Young Gaby Ramirez Howard is an animal lover who helps out at the local animal shelter and creates flyers that help the dogs and cats find their forever homes. We meet Gaby as she navigates days without her mother who has been deported to Honduras and we can’t help but feel her underlying sadness. Although this story focuses mostly on the animals in Gaby’s world, the story of her mother’s situation plays an important part for her. I felt that this story had the power to teach us no matter our age about the importance of the issues migrants face these days.
So the next title is actually the first in a trilogy of sorts by award-winning author Kelly Yang. Front Desk starts the story of Mia Tang who calls the Calivista Motel home because she and her family run the motel. We meet Mia in this first book where she manages the front desk, tends to the guests, and has to navigate her way through middle school and all the challenges that brings. I didn’t realise until I finished this book that it was somewhat based on Yang’s own childhood. Her descriptions of the struggles Mia and her family faces with the motel owners and that of Mia’s school life are expertly crafted. I found myself going over sections and even copying down quotes!! This was a gorgeous book on those new beginnings migrants face. The next two, Three Keys and Room to Dream, continues Mia’s story as she grows up. We learn about undocumented migrants in the second book and how it affects Lupe, Mia’s best friend, and Mia struggles with her identity in the third read when she returns to China for a vacation. If I’m honest with you, Yang is fast becoming a favourite author of mine thanks to these reads!!
This next read, New boy by Nick Earls, is a story about Herschelle, a young South African boy whose family has moved across the world to Australia. While adjusting to a new country, he’s finding adjusting to the new school more challenging than he realised. Despite the underlying themes of bullying and racism, there are some funny school scenes that make this an engaging read! For me, glimpsing into what life must have been like in South Africa and Herschelle’s comparison with that of the way Aussie’s behave was quite eye-opening and overwhelming. This would be a great read for boys more than girls, but that’s just what I think!!
The last selection is a title I found quite recently. In Santiago’s road home by Alexandra Diaz, we meet a young teenager who embarks on a journey across Central America towards a possible future in the United States. Santiago meets the kind, maternal María Dolores and her young daughter, Alegría, and they help him decide what comes next. To travel together will require trust from all parties, and Santiago is used to going it alone. None of the three travelers realizes that the journey through Mexico to the border is just the beginning of the story. I found this a powerful and poignant read!! Alezandra Diaz captured the harsh realities that young kids face, are facing, still to this day in detention centres across the American border from Mexico. The daily struggle, the harsh conditions, being separated from loved ones are just a few aspects described in great detail and Diaz has also done an amazing job at creating the characters of Santiago and María and her daughter Alegría. I cried, I laughed and shook my fist several times. The concept of migration is an underlying one but the main one for me is the relationship and bond formed by the young travelers. As this book had some harsh realities described I would recommend it for older readers!!
So there you have a list of contemporary tween migrant reads! This theme is one that is becoming quite popular in middle grade and teen fiction. I hope you enjoyed these ones and if you have read any similar stories I’d love to hear from you!!
Stay safe and keep reading