Tag Archives: immigration

Reading poetry with Lucy

1 Aug

At some point every day, Lucy and I take a walk and she lays down on the sidewalk to bask in the sun.


It can get a little annoying, but I have learned to anticipate her need for warmth. Armed with treats, I lure her to my front stoop, pull out a lawn chair and read while Lucy takes her sun bath. I choose my books carefully because, although she loves the warmth, Lucy can only take so much heat. Her sunbath last anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, so I like a book I can pick up and put down. Lately, it has been poetry. Each poem is like a short story and I can read one or several, waiting for Lucy to get her fill of the sun.

This week, I’ve been reading Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience. I am already thinking about how I can use it in my classroom. It is that excellent!


Publisher’s Summary: With authenticity, integrity, and insight, this collection of poems addresses the many issues confronting first- and second- generation young adult immigrants and refugees, such as cultural and language differences, homesickness, social exclusion, human rights, racism, stereotyping, and questions of identity. Poems by Elizabeth Acevedo, Erika L. Sánchez, Samira Ahmed, Chen Chen, Ocean Vuong, Fatimah Asghar, Carlos Andrés Gómez, Bao Phi, Kaveh Akbar, Hala Alyan, and Ada Limón, among others, encourage readers to honor their roots as well as explore new paths, offering empathy and hope for those who are struggling to overcome discrimination. Many of the struggles immigrant and refugee teens face head-on are also experienced by young people everywhere as they contend with isolation, self-doubt, confusion, and emotional dislocation.

Ink Knows No Borders is the first book of its kind and features 64 poems and a foreword by poet Javier Zamora, who crossed the border, unaccompanied, at the age of nine, and an afterword by Emtithal Mahmoud, World Poetry Slam Champion and Honorary Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. Brief biographies of the poets are included, as well. It’s a hopeful, beautiful, and meaningful book for any reader.

Busy reading weekend

14 Nov

Since I spent most of the weekend letting my knee recover, I had a lot of time to read and knit. I read three print books and listened to two audiobooks and almost finished a pair of socks. The perks of a knee injury.

One of the books I listened to was The Sun is Also  Star by Nicola Yoon.


Publisher’s Summary:

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

Another great bit of bibliotherapy.

The universe seems to be bringing Natasha & Daniel together and apart and you can’t help rooting for both of them.

I met Nicola Yoon at an ALA dinner in San Francisco. Her first move, Everything, Everything was about to be published  and she was one of 4 authors promoting their work. It was a wonderful novel and I highly recommend it if you haven’t read it yet. Warning: neither are suitable for middle grade audiences. They are clearly YA.

The story is narrated in two voices, Natasha’s & Daniel’s and unfolds over the course of a single day. As each shares part of their story, you can’t help but fall in love with them. Their narration is punctuated by the Universe telling details about side characters or facts. It could have become didactic, but it is really effective.

Yoon’s sophomore novel is even better than her first!


Angel Island by Russell Freedman

12 Mar

When I taught 6th grade in  middle school, some years ago, our 8th grade team did a unit on immigration in Social Studies. The culminating event was a role plating exercise in which the students dressed up as an immigrant from their family history, and had to go through stations to enter the US.  All the teachers in the hall, 6th through 8th grade participated during their plan time. The brilliant skill our team members possessed,  was the ability to speak different languages. As they came to our station, we would give them instructions in a language they didn’t understand. I gave mine in French, another teacher in Hebrew, a couple of others in Spanish. Our Hispanic kids breezed throughout the stations in Spanish. Some kids figure it out. But I remember rather fondly one girl, a freckled red-head who had a costume so realistic she looked as though she had just left Ireland. She was a  very bright girl and school usually came easily to her. By the time she got to me, she was red-faced and looked exhausted. Even tough I didn’t speak to her in English, she told me how frustrated she felt about not having a clue about what was going on. The role play was a success!

Russell Freedman’s new book  Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain  portrays that immigrant experience.


It is always a pleasure to know that Russell Freedman has written a new book. With the feel of a family scrapbook, Freedman tells the story of the people who emigrated to America through Angel Island, first from China, then from other countries. It is a heartbreaking look at our past. With so much written about the Ellis Island experience, this book adds to the smaller list of books focusing on immigration on the West Coast. An amazing collection of photos is enhanced by poetry that was originally scrawled on the walls of Angel Island’s prison in Chinese characters.  Here is a sample of both the Chinese and translated poems:


It’s been seven weeks since my imprisonment  

On this island – and still I do not know when I can land.                                                                              

Due to the twists and turns of  fate,                                                                                                                                                              

I have to endure bitterness and sorrow.

This would have been a great resource for our 8th grade team back in the day. Nice to know that today’s teachers have this wonderful resource.

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