First Crossing: Stories about Teen Immigration (Part 2)

First Crossing is a collection of stories.  Because I found it best to review each story separately, this is the second day of coverage for this title.  The first 5 stories can be found here. Whether you’re reading it straight through or pulling stories to read with your class, this has a lot to offer.

Lines of Scrimmage by Elsa Marston

This story is definitely showing the darker side of the immigrant experience.  Ameen and his family are Palestinian and left their homeland when he was only five.  He has recently moved to Arizona and earned a place as a quarterback.  But Arizona is very different from where they last lived (Detroit) and there are no longer any other Arab students.  Ameen faces racial slurs from his opponents and a lack of support from his teammates that amounts to sabotage.  Marston has set her story in post 9/11 America, so in addition to Ameen’s family feeling frustration with the question of US support for Israel over Palestine, they also have to deal with general anti-Arab sentiments.  There is a nice connection drawn between the Israelis and Palestinians and Americans and Navajos.

Sex, Nudity, Dating – None.
Profanity – “Hell”. Also racist slurs: “Ay-rab,” “rag-head,” “camel-jockey,” “sand n*gger.”
Death, Violence and Gore – There is football related violence of being sacked too hard and hit too hard.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – Ameen’s dad drinks beer with dinner.  The quarterback of the football team totaled his car in a drunk-driving accident.
Frightening or Intense Things – None.

The Swede by Alden R. Carter

Now we’re absolutely getting to serious and negative scenarios for immigrants.  When a Swedish company takes over an American mill, Per-Erik and his family relocate from Sweden to Green Bay.  But despite his friendly overtures the boys at his high school see him as an embodiment of everything they hate.  When the Swedish management lays off large numbers of union workers, things become a living hell for Per-Erik as he is targeted with more and more severe bullying.  Told from the perspective of a local, rather than the immigrant, this is a vital story about being a bystander, going along to get along and how not being true to yourself can make you wonder who you really are.

Sex, Nudity, Dating – A girl calls Per-Erik a hunk and asks to be introduced to him.
Death, Violence and Gore – Per-Erik is pushed into the lockers. The teens talk about how domestic violence has increased after the layoffs.  There is some gore in descriptions of a dead deer that is used in a “prank.”
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – A few guys are drinking while setting up a prank. Drinking may have caused increased violence.  They joke about their fathers coming home drunk.
Frightening or Intense Things – This is a pretty dark story.  Although there is not much personal physical violence done to Per-Erik, the nasty things the boys do to his car and the anger being their actions bring both intensity and intimidation to this story.

The Rose of Sharon by Marie G. Lee

Absolutely my least favorite story in the book. Sarah was adopted from Korea and desperately wants to know about her birth family.  She views her adopted family with disgust (doesn’t even call them mom and dad).  For their part, they pretend as though she’s not Korean at all.  When Sarah has the opportunity to meet up with another Korean adoptee who has met her birth family she learns that the other girl’s birth family was money grubbing and basically the Korean equivalent of poor white trash.  I’m not saying adoption is easy and that the path to balancing your heritage and your adoptive family is easy.  But in this story everyone got everything wrong.  It just felt off.  As if the message was “your adoptive family sucks, but your birth family sucks more, so forget about your heritage and put up with the suckiness you know.”  I’d love to have someone who has experience dealing with cross-cultural adoption read this story and share their opinion.

Sex, Nudity, Dating – Really weird and unnecessary metaphor that Korean orphans converged on a restaurant like sperm to an egg.
Profanity – “bullshit,” “fucking,” “shit,”
Death, Violence and Gore – None.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – Soo Mi orders a beer. Soo Mi’s brother smokes.
Frightening or Intense Things – None.

Make Maddie Mad by Rita Williams-Garcia

This was a great story of two girls with Haitian backgrounds who are defining themselves in very different ways.  While Martine embraces her language and her heritage and mostly stays in circles where she can be around her Creole speaking friends, Madeline is intent on defining herself as a Black American.  So often the majority race/culture does not bother to see the differences in cultures within another group.  So many from the outside would simply call both of these girls black.  But this difference in identity and community is one that will really speak to readers who have experienced this, and would be a great piece for classroom discussion.

Sex, Nudity, Dating – The Haitian soccer team gets a bit grabby with the waitresses.  Martine talks about how the waitress set things up to limit opportunities for physical contact.  The soccer captain tells the waitress he wants juice from her titty.
Profanity – “bitch.”   One of the girls says in Creole “Ou se yon kochon! Manman-ou se yon kochon! Papa-ou se yon kochon!” The english translation is just you’re a pig, your mother’s a pig, your father is a pig, but I have no idea if that’s the implication in Creole or if it is a stronger curse.
Death, Violence and Gore – None.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – None.
Frightening or Intense Things – None.

The Green Armchair by Minfong Ho

Sopeap and her family have fled Cambodia.  She struggles with English and her memories about leaving her home and her grandmother.  Sopeap develops a closer friendship with a boy from school when he brings his grandfather’s chair to be fixed by her father’s upholstery business.  He helps her remember how to keep family close even when they cannot be with you.

Sex, Nudity, Dating – Sopeap seems to like Tom and he takes her hand at one point.
Death, Violence and Gore – Part of the story is about dealing with the loss of a grandparent.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – None.
Frightening or Intense Things – The book speaks very little of what happened in Cambodia to cause Sopeap’s family to leave, but it is clear that Sopeap is blocking memories that are too painful.

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1 Response to First Crossing: Stories about Teen Immigration (Part 2)

  1. Pingback: First Crossing: Stories about Teen Immigration (Part 2) | altdotlife: Build your own village

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