Read Woke At Home: Immigration

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This week, our suggested reading list spotlights characters and stories centered around Immigrants voices.


We are not from here by Torres Sanchez, Jenny

Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña have no false illusions about the town they’ve grown up in and the dangers that surround them. Though their families–both biological and found–create a warm community for them, threats lurk around every corner. And when those threats become all too real, the three teens know they have no choice but to run: for the border, for the hope of freedom, and for their very lives.

Crossing from Guatemala through Mexico with their eyes on the U.S. border, they follow the route of La Bestia, a system of trains that promise the hope of freedom–if they are lucky enough to survive the harrowing journey. With nothing but the bags on their backs and the desperation that courses through their very veins, Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña know that there’s no turning back, dangerous though the road ahead might be.

In this powerful story inspired by real–and current–events, the plight at our southern border is brought to painful, poignant life.

American Street by Zoboi, Ibi Aanu.

The rock in the water does not know the pain of the rock in the sun.

On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life.

But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own.

Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?

The far away brothers : two teenage immigrants making a life in America by Markham, Lauren

Ernesto and Raúl Flores are identical twins, used to being mistaken for each other. As seventeen-year-olds living in rural El Salvador, they think the United States is just a far-off dream–it’s too risky, too expensive to start a life there. But when Ernesto ends up on the wrong side of MS-13, one of El Salvador’s brutal gangs, he flees the country for his own safety. Raúl, fearing that he will be mistaken for his brother, follows close behind.

Running from one danger to the next, the Flores twins make the harrowing journey north, crossing the Rio Grande and the Texas desert only to fall into the hands of immigration authorities. When they finally make it to the custody of their older brother in Oakland, California, the difficulties don’t end.

While navigating a new school in a new language, struggling to pay off their mounting coyote debt, and anxiously waiting for their day in immigration court, Raul and Ernesto are also trying to lead normal teenage lives–dealing with girls, social media, and fitting in. With only each other for support, they begin the process of carving out a life for themselves, one full of hope and possibility.

Everything sad is untrue by Nayeri, Daniel.

At the front of a middle school classroom in Oklahoma, a boy named Khosrou (whom everyone calls “Daniel”) stands, trying to tell a story. His story. But no one believes a word he says. To them he is a dark-skinned, hairy-armed boy with a big butt whose lunch smells funny; who makes things up and talks about poop too much.

But Khosrou’s stories, stretching back years, and decades, and centuries, are beautiful, and terrifying, from the moment his family fled Iran in the middle of the night with the secret police moments behind them, back to the sad, cement refugee camps of Italy.and further back to the fields near the river Aras, where rain-soaked flowers bled red like the yolk of sunset burst over everything, and further back still to the Jasmine-scented city of Isfahan.

We bounce between a school bus of kids armed with paper clip missiles and spitballs to the heroines and heroes of Khosrou’s family’s past, who ate pastries that made people weep and cry “Akh, Tamar!” and touched carpets woven with precious gems.

Like Scheherazade in a hostile classroom, Daniel weaves a tale to save his own life: to stake his claim to the truth. And it is (a true story).

How dare the sun rise : Memoirs of a War Child by Uwiringiyimana, Sandra.

In this powerful memoir, Sandra Uwiringyimana, a girl from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, tells the incredible true story of how she survived a massacre, immigrated to America, and overcame her trauma through art and activism.

Sandra Uwiringiyimana was just ten years old when she found herself with a gun pointed at her head. The rebels had come at night—wielding weapons, torches, machetes. She watched as her mother and six-year-old sister were gunned down in a refugee camp, far from their home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The rebels were killing people who weren’t from the same community, the same tribe. In other words, they were killing people simply for looking different.

“Goodbye, life,” she said to the man ready to shoot her.

Remarkably, the rebel didn’t pull the trigger, and Sandra escaped into the night.

Thus began a new life for her and her surviving family members. With no home and no money, they struggled to stay alive. Eventually, through a United Nations refugee program, they moved to America, only to face yet another ethnic disconnect. Sandra may have crossed an ocean, but there was now a much wider divide she had to overcome. And it started with middle school in New York.

In this profoundly moving memoir, Sandra tells the story of her survival, of finding her place in a new country, and of her hope for the future.

Esperanza rising by Ryan, Pam Muñoz

Esperanza thought she’d always live with her family on their ranch in Mexico–she’d always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home, and servants. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California during the Great Depression, and to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn’t ready for the hard labor, financial struggles, or lack of acceptance she now faces. When their new life is threatened, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances–Mama’s life, and her own, depend on it.

Without refuge by Mitchell, Jane

Thirteen-year-old Ghalib wishes his life could go back to normal. He wishes he could still hang out at the market with his friends, root for his favorite soccer team, even go to school. But civil war has destroyed his home.

As violence rages around them, his family makes the difficult choice to flee Syria. Together they start out on a dangerous journey toward Europe. Along the way, they encounter closely guarded borders, hardscrabble refugee camps, and an ocean crossing that they may not survive.

The gripping story of one boy’s journey to find refuge pays tribute to struggles millions of Syrians face in today’s real-world crisis.

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