Friend or Foe?


By Domenica Di Piazza, Editorial Director of Twenty-First Century Books

As Americans contemplate the fictions and facts, and pros and cons of a wall along our southern border, we rethink our national heritage and values. As a nation founded by immigrants and fueled by the labor of peoples—indigenous, free, enslaved, and refugee—from all over the world, do we still welcome and foster the diversity that has shaped us? And who are the peoples who make their way to the United States? Why do they come here and what do they bring with them? How do they challenge and enrich the societies in which they make their new lives?

Some of the answers to these questions can be found in The Global Refugee Crisis: Fleeing Conflict and Violence, Stephanie Sammartino McPherson’s newest YA title for Twenty-First Century Books’ Spring 2019 season. In it, McPherson documents the significant rise in the numbers of global refugees, fueled by war, poverty, and climate change. She looks at the harrowing, often life-threatening experiences most refugees face in fleeing their homelands, enduring sexual assault and other hardships in refugee camps, managing the administrative demands and financial costs of seeking asylum, and navigating the challenges of integration into new cultures and ways of living once they have reached safety in the United States and other countries. She also shares the stories of the many people who reach out to refugees to help them manage transitions and to lead healthy, happy, and productive lives.

Everyone Has a Story

Many refugees are children, and McPherson shares their heartaches and successes. Among these young people are Ilhan Omar, who came to the United States in 1995 with her family as a young refugee from Somalia. The family had spent four years in a Kenyan refugee camp before that. In 2018 she was elected to the US House of Representatives, becoming the first Somali American to serve in that branch of government.

And you’ll meet ten-year-old Bana Alabed, whose Twitter posts from Syria during the siege of Aleppo captured the world’s attention, and its heart. In 2017 Simon & Schuster published Alabed’s memoir Dear World: A Syrian Girl’s Story of War and Plea for Peace, in which she calls for peace and an end to global conflict.

Another refugee profiled in the book is Wilmot Collins, who fled civil war in Libya as a young adult in the mid-1990s. In the United States, Collins initially worked as a janitor. He became a US citizen in 2001 and went on to become a child protective specialist, a member of the US Naval Reserve, and, in 2017, the first black mayor elected in the state of Montana.

The Global Refugee Crisis challenges readers to think critically about any nation’s ability to welcome refugees such as these while also meeting the needs of its populace. Are these goals compatible? Are refugees and newcomers friends or foes? How do we successfully deal with global populations increasingly on the move? And if we view newcomers as friends, how do we embrace them to make our lives richer, safer, and more meaningful?

Futher Reading

exposing hate cover

For more analysis, pair this book with Exposing Hate: Prejudice, Hatred, and Violence in Action. This book by Mike Miller for YA readers, also new for Spring 2019, examines hate groups and hate crimes, many of whose victims are refugees and immigrants to the United States.

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