Title: The Newcomers- Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom
Author: Helen Thorpe
Genre: nonfiction, memoir
Is this part of a series? No.
Publish date? 11-14-17
In Denver Colorado there is a special group of classes, ELA classes, given to the kids of new refugees. Teens from all over the world, newly resettled into America from across the globe, come together to learn English, and get caught up in school- some of which have been out for some time. Thorpe joined the class for a year, getting to know the teachers and students while also researching what each of these families went through before coming to America, and what they dealt with after. This book takes place in 2015, around the time that Trump started his campaigning in earnest. While families from Vietnam, Somalia, the DRC, El Salvador and many other areas were trying to acclimate to a very different life and learning how to move through a new society, racism is beginning to run rampant. Students are worried- both the refugees and regular students. It brings to light what each family went through, and how hard they work to become self reliant.
It also begs the question- what are we going to do? Are we, as a country going to accept refugees- truly accept these people and work to help them? Or do we close our boarders and our hearts? Can we even make such a decision without knowing what they are going through- not just what they had to go through in their lives, but the trouble they have once here- learning English, getting jobs, racism and misunderstandings?
I loved this book, but it broke me. These are teens- children really- who have had their lives threatened. Some had to hide from soldiers- or witnessed car bombs in their own neighborhood. Some were born in refugee camps- one family went through the process of trying to get accepted for ten years. We are talking about a 22 step vetting process in some instances. So many of us, myself included, feel like we are knowledgeable about these issues- but I knew nothing about what these families went through- and very little about what help is available to refugees when they get here. While the families stories were painful, and hard to handle; I found myself taking my time and pushing through. I loved this book. For me, this is a definite five star.
The adult content scale is hard to be objective about here. There is so much violence, so much pain, talk of (the threat of ) rape and death…. I would not feel comfortable giving this book to a teen. Also, you have to think about the fact that in 2015, many of the refugees written about were teens- would I be ready for Juliet to read about someone her own age going through all this? I don’t think I could, unless there was a lot of discussion time afterward. I have to give this one an eight.
I received an eARC of this book from Netgalley and Scribner Publishing for the price of an honest review. Many thanks- I loved it so much that I preordered a hard-copy from Amazon and will receive it Tuesday.
The book comes out 11-14-17…. I cannot stress the importance of this book at this time, when refugees are so numerous, and their acceptance into new countries so uncertain.
Link to book: