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Results 1 - 25 of 60
1. Picture Book Roundup - Wordless edition

It's been ages since I've done a picture book roundup!  Here are two wordless masterpieces.

  • Becker, Aaron. 2013. Journey. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
Harold and the Purple Crayon for a new generation.  Beautiful!

  • Kim, Patti. 2014. Here I Am. North Mankato, MN: Capstone Press. 
An insightful story of a young boy's experience in emigrating from Asia to the United States.

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2. Does “Published” Need to be “Perfect?”

There's a reason for second and third editions of really great books--a writer's work is never done, and is certainly never, ever perfect.

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3. Undocumented immigrants in 17th century America

By Richard A. Bailey

“In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are under-written, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign Lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, etc.

Having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine our selves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the eleventh of November in the year of the reign of our sovereign lord, King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Dom. 1620.”

When the Mayflower—packed with 102 English men, women, and children—set out from Plymouth, England, on 6 September 1610, little did these Pilgrims know that sixty-five days later they would find themselves not only some 3,000 miles from their planned point of disembarkation but also pressed to pen the above words as the governing document for their fledgling settlement, Plimouth Plantation. Signed by 41 of the 50 adult males, the “Mayflower Compact” represented the type of covenant this particular strain of puritans believed could change the world.

The signing of The Mayflower Compact

While they hoped to achieve success in the future, these signers were especially concerned with survival in the present. The lives of these Pilgrims for the two decades or so prior to the launching of the Mayflower had been characterized by Separatism. Their decision to separate from the Church of England as a way to protest and to purify what they saw as its shortcomings had led to the necessity of illegally emigrating from the country of England and seeking refuge in the Netherlands. A further separation was needed as these English families realized that the Netherlands offered neither the cultural nor economic opportunities they really desired. But returning to England was out of the question. Thus, in order to discover the religious freedom they desired, these Pilgrims needed to remove yet again, which became possible because of an agreement made with an English joint-stock company willing to pair “saints” and “strangers” in a colony in the American hemisphere.

Despite the fact that they were the ones who had recently arrived in North America, the Pilgrims taxed the abilities of both the land and its native peoples to sustain the newly arrived English. Such taxation became most visible at moments of violent conflict between colonists and Native Americans, as in 1623 when Pilgrims massacred a group of Indians living at Wessagussett. Following the attack, John Robinson, a Pilgrim pastor still in the Netherlands, wrote a letter to William Bradford, Plimouth’s governor, expressing his fears with the following words: “It is also a thing more glorious, in men’s eyes, than pleasing in God’s or convenient to Christians, to be a terrour to poor barbarous people. And indeed I am afraid lest, by these occasions, others should be drawn to affect a kind of ruffling course in the world.” As his letter makes clear, Robinson clearly hoped the colonists would offer the indigenous peoples of New England the prospect of redemption–spiritually and culturally–rather than the edge of a sword. The Wessagussett affair, however, illustrated such redemption had not been realized. From at least that moment on, relationships between English colonists and the indigenous peoples of North America more often than not followed ruffling courses.

While an established state church isn’t a main threat nearly 400 years later, some of the Pilgrims’ concerns still haunt many Americans. Like those English colonists preparing to set foot on North American soil, we remain afraid of those we perceive as different than us–culturally, racially, ethnically, and the like. But the tables are turned. We are now the ones striving to protect ourselves from a stream of illegal and “undocumented” immigrants attempting to pursue their dreams in a new land. Our primary method of protection? Separatism. Like the Pilgrims we often remain unwilling to welcome those we define as different. We’ll look to them for assistance when necessary, rely on their labor when convenient, take advantage of their needs when possible, but we won’t welcome them as neighbors and equals in any real sense nor do we seek to provide reconciliation and redemption to people eager to embrace the potential future they see among us.

Ruffled courses persist as the United States wrestles with how it ought to treat those men, women, and children who, like the Pilgrims of the seventeenth century, are looking for newfound opportunities. As we remember the voyage of the seventeenth-century immigrants who departed England on 6 September 1610 and recall their many successful efforts to establish a lasting settlement in a distant land, we do well to celebrate not only their need to separate but also their dedication to “covenant and combine [them]selves together into a civil body politic.” The world has enough ruffling courses and perhaps needs the purifying reform modeled by the Pilgrims and the potential redemption those like John Robinson hoped for as they agreed to work together for the common good. In short, one would hope that a people whose history was migration from another land would be more welcoming than we often are, especially in our dealings with the immigrants and the impending immigration reform of our own day.

Richard A. Bailey is Associate Professor of History at Canisius College. He is the author of Race and Redemption in Puritan New England. His current research focuses on western Massachusetts as an intersection of empires in the eighteenth-century Atlantic world, fly fishing in colonial America, and the concept of friendship in the life and writings of Wendell Berry. You can find Richard on Twitter @richardabailey

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Image credit: The Mayflower Compact, 1620. Artist unknown, from Library of Congress. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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4. Q&A with Patricia MacLachlan + a Giveaway

Like you, I read lots of books.  One of my favorite authors has long been Patricia MacLachlan, who I believe is one of the most exquisite writers of our time.  Her newest book,… Read More

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5. “Third Nation” along the US-Mexico border

By Michael Dear

Not long ago, I passed a roadside sign in New Mexico which read: “Es una frontera, no una barrera / It’s a border, not a barrier.” This got me thinking about the nature of the international boundary line separating the US from Mexico. The sign’s message seemed accurate, but what exactly did it mean?

On 2 February 1848, a ‘Treaty of Peace, Friendship, Limits and Settlement’ was signed at Guadalupe Hidalgo, thus terminating the Mexican-American War. The conflict was ostensibly about securing the boundary of the recently-annexed state of Texas, but it was clear from the outset that US President Polk’s ambition was territorial expansion. As consequences of the Treaty, Mexico gained peace and $15 million, but eventually lost one-half of its territory; the US achieved the largest land grab in its history through a war that many (including Ulysses S. Grant) regarded as dishonorable.

In recent years, I’ve traveled the entire length of the 2,000-mile US-Mexico border many times, on both sides. There are so many unexpected and inspiring places! Mutual interdependence has always been the hallmark of cross-border communities. Border people are staunchly independent and composed of many cultures with mixed loyalties. They get along perfectly well with people on the other side, but remain distrustful of far-distant national capitals. The border states are among the fastest-growing regions in both countries — places of economic dynamism, teeming contradiction, and vibrant political and cultural change.

A small fence separates densely populated Tijuana, Mexico, right, from the United States in the Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector.

Yet the border is also a place of enormous tension associated with undocumented migration and drug wars. Neither of these problems has its source in the borderlands, but border communities are where the burdens of enforcement are geographically concentrated. It’s because of our country’s obsession with security, immigration, and drugs that after 9/11 the US built massive fortifications between the two nations, and in so doing, threatened the well-being of cross-border communities.

I call the spaces between Mexico and the US a ‘third nation.’ It’s not a sovereign state, I realize, but it contains many of the elements that would otherwise warrant that title, such as a shared identity, common history, and joint traditions. Border dwellers on both sides readily assert that they have more in common with each other than with their host nations. People describe themselves as ‘transborder citizens.’ One man who crossed daily, living and working on both sides, told me: “I forget which side of the border I’m on.” The boundary line is a connective membrane, not a separation. It’s easy to reimagine these bi-national communities as a ‘third nation’ slotted snugly in the space between two countries. (The existing Tohono O’Odham Indian Nation already extends across the borderline in the states of Arizona and Sonora.)

But there is more to the third nation than a cognitive awareness. Both sides are also deeply connected through trade, family, leisure, shopping, culture, and legal connections. Border-dwellers’ lives are intimately connected by their everyday material lives, and buttressed by innumerable formal and informal institutional arrangements (NAFTA, for example, as well as water and environmental conservation agreements). Continuity and connectivity across the border line existed for centuries before the border was put in place, even back to the Spanish colonial era and prehistoric Mesoamerican times.

Do the new fortifications built by the US government since 9/11 pose a threat to the well-being of borderland communities? Certainly there’s been interruptions to cross-border lives: crossing times have increased; the number of US Border Patrol ‘boots on ground’ has doubled; and a new ‘gulag’ of detention centers has been instituted to apprehend, prosecute and deport all undocumented migrants. But trade has continued to increase, and cross-border lives are undiminished. US governments are opening up new and expanded border crossing facilities (known as ports of entry) at record levels.  Gas prices in Mexican border towns are tied to the cost of gasoline on the other side. The third nation is essential to the prosperity of both countries.

So yes, the roadside sign in New Mexico was correct. The line between Mexico and the US is a border in the geopolitical sense, but it is submerged by communities that do not regard it as a barrier to centuries-old cross-border intercourse. The international boundary line is only just over a century-and-a-half old. Historically, there was no barrier; and the border is not a barrier nowadays.

The walls between Mexico and the US will come down. Walls always do. The Berlin Wall was torn down virtually overnight, its fragments sold as souvenirs of a calamitous Cold War. The Great Wall of China was transformed into a global tourist attraction. Left untended, the US-Mexico Wall will collapse under the combined assault of avid recyclers, souvenir hunters, and local residents offended by its mere presence.

As the US prepares once again to consider immigration reform, let the focus this time be on immigration and integration. The framers of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo were charged with making the US-Mexico border, but on this anniversary of the Treaty’s signing, we may best honor the past by exploring a future when the border no longer exists. Learning from the lives of cross-border communities in the third nation would be an appropriate place to begin.

Michael Dear is a professor in the College of Environmental Design at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of Why Walls Won’t Work: Repairing the US-Mexico Divide (Oxford University Press).

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6. Blast from the Past -- Water Street, by Patricia Reilly Giff

Here is a book that I originally blurbed over at Booktopia.  It's a go-to historical fiction and one of my favorite NYC stories.

Bird and Thomas are growing up in a Brooklyn apartment just as the bridge is rising. Over on Water Street, Bird is the youngest of 3 - daughter of a bridge worker and a healer. Thomas is pretty much on his own - Da being down at the pub all the time.

Thomas dreams of being a writer. He has fashioned himself a notebook and makes sure to write everything down. He has a shadowy memory of a woman in lace sleeves who told him that writing can change it all.

Bird has her own dreams of following in her mother's footsteps and becoming a healer herself. She has a notebook where she writes down remedies ... sliced onion for bee stings, coal from the turf fire held under the nose for sneezing.

Bird always needs to fix things. She needs to get her brother Hughie to stop fighting in the backs of pubs. She needs to get sister Annie out of the box factory. She needs to save all her money to help her mother buy a farm in New Jersey.

Thomas needs to find his past and try to fix his family.

This is immigrant Brooklyn in the 1870s. Patricia Reilly Giff has managed to bring in so many aspects of daily immigrant life without making it seem like school. The streets come alive (especially when Thomas and Bird venture into Manhattan) with sights and sounds and smells. It was a pleasure to read about Brooklyn instead of the Bowery.

This book is equally suited for older tweens and younger teens. There is a bit of detailed gore described in some healing scenes that may have queasy readers blanching. Told in alternating chapters, the stories of Bird and Thomas come to life and are a pleasure to read.

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7. Under the Mesquite - Review

Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Publication date: 31 October 2011 by Lee & Low Books
ISBN 10/13: 1600604293 | 9781600604294

Category: Young Adult Realistic Fiction
Keywords: Immigration, Family, Cancer, Mexican, Diversity Reading Challenge
Format: Hardcover

Kimberly's Review:

Lupita is the oldest daughter of a tight-knit Mexican-American family. They moved to Texas when she was just a baby. When her Mami develops cancer, Lupita takes it upon herself to care for her seven younger siblings. Only a young teenager herself, she rapidly grows into a young woman who struggles with identity and family obligations.

I can't really write about this book for fear of giving something away. But it's beautifully written, incorporating some Spanish words into the English prose. Every character is well drawn out, especially Lupita and her mother. This is a family that may have some problems, but overall love each other. The warmth and strength of all the characters, especially Lupita and her father, are gorgeously written.

Reading this on the beach this morning, I absorbed their story within a couple of hours and found myself crying. The tone, language and texture is heavy and serious, yet is filled with universal truths: A mother's love for her family, the fear of loss, growing pains, and finding yourself. Everything is touched upon in a very natural way. The story flowed over me, as if my best friend was telling it. 

I'm so thankful I picked this book up to read. It will stay with me for a long time. 

Get it and settle yourself into a comfy chair with some tea and a box of tissues. Lupita's journey is not to be missed.

Visit the author online at http://guadalupegarciamccall.com.

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8. Poetry Friday: Denied, Deported, Detained

Statue of Liberty Dreams of Emma Lazarus, Awakens with Tears on her Cheeks

Naomi Shihab Nye

Give me your tired, your poor...
But not too tired, not too poor.
And we will give you the red tape,
the long line, white bread in its wrapper,
forms to fill out, and the looks, the stares
that say you are not where or what you should be,
not quirw, not yet, you will never live up to

Your huddled masses yearning to be free...
Can keep huddling. Even here. Sorry to say this.
Neighborhoods with poor drainage
Potholes, stunning gunshots...
You'll teem here too.

You dreamed a kinder place, a tree
no one would cut, a cabinet to store your clothes.
Simple jobs brining payment on time.
Someone to stand up for you.
The way I used to do, for everyone. Holding my torch
to get you to your new home in this country stitched
of immigrants from the get-go...
But you would always be homesick. No one said that.

I was the doorkeeper, concierge, welcome chief,
But rules have changed and I'm bouncer at the big club.
Had no say in it, hear me? Any chnace I could be, again,
the one I used to be?

I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
It's still up high. At night I tuck it into my robe.
And worry. What will happen to you?
Every taunt, every turn-around,
hand it over. That's not what you came here for.
I'll fold it into my rubbing rad,
Bring back a shine.

Denied, Detained, Deported: Stories from the Dark Side of American Immigration Ann Bauseum

Well, the call has gone out for 2011 CYBILS judges (you should totally sign up!) So I decided it was about time I FINALLY finished going through my notes and writing up the last lingering books that were nominated in 2009. (I read them all in 2009, I just didn't get around to reviewing all of them.)

This book opens with the poem I posted above. There are 5 chapters-- Exlcuded tells to the story of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and anti-Chinese sentitment during the late 19th century. Deported looks at the case of Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, Russian immigrants who became involved in the labor and anarchy movements at the beginning of the twentieth century and were deported for it after living in the US for decades. Goldman was already a citizen. Denied tells the of the ill-fated voyage of the St. Louis-- a ship of Jewish refugees who were denied port in Cuba and the US before returning to Hitler's Europe. Detained tells of Japanese internment during WWII. Exploited looks at the long history of Mexican immigration and the role of migrant workers in the US economy.

I wanted to like this one more than I did. It's beautifully done visually. The history is well explained and Bausum ties it in well with broader trends at the time as well as current events (and other events that happened between then and now.) The title chapters focus on just one family or person to give faces and names to some of the effected people. But... there is something about this book

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9. Parole In Place Workshops

See this article: http://www.mvariety.com/community-bulletin/parole-in-place-workshops.php

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10. Perry v. Romney

By Elvin Lim The two front-runners in the Republican nomination contest, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney, narrowed the distance between them in the last debate in Florida sponsored by Fox and Google. This is a debate that showcased both their Achilles’ heels. Perry's problem is not the "ponzi scheme" comment about Social Security. Most conservatives agree with him, and the consistent conservative would actually agree with him that Social Security is a matter that should be sent back to the states to handle. Perry's problem is his

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11. Telluride at Dartmouth: Le Havre

This post is the last in my chronicle of attending the Telluride at Dartmouth program at the Hopkins Center for the Arts. Days 1 & 2 (A Dangerous Method and Albert Nobbs) can be found here, Day 3 (We Need to Talk About Kevin) can be found here, and Day 4 (In Darkness) can be found here.

The final film of the six shown in the Telluride at Dartmouth program was Le Havre, written and directed by Aki Kaurismäki. (As I expected, I wasn't able to get over to Hanover for The Kid with the Bike, alas.) It was a good choice for a concluding film because the program had been, overall, rather bleak -- enjoyable, powerful, illuminating, but seldom uplifting. Le Havre is a fairy tale and a feel-good movie, one that tackles terrifying and complex subjects whimsically and is so determined to finish on a good note that everybody's ending is a happy one. It's naive to the point of being Panglossian, but so darn nice about it that it seems churlish to complain. It's a tremendously enjoyable movie to sit through -- weird, funny, and full of scenes that will make you feel good about human generosity. It's the cinematic equivalent of "Kumbaya", but with more wit.

[Note that from here on, I'm going to talk about the whole film, including its ending(s). I don't think knowing how it all turns out will impede most people's enjoyment of the movie, because its tone from early on telegraphs that this is not a tragedy, but if you're the sort of person who hates to know anything about a movie's story no matter what, you should stop reading right now.]

Actually, what Le Havre really felt like to me was one of Hal Hartley's good movies, the kind he hasn't made since Henry Fool: odd, unpredictable, at least a bit silly, the sort of movie that revels in its own irony and artificiality, yet by the end somehow transforms all its irony into shameless sincerity, even sentimentality. Le Havre is the product of an utterly sentimental view of humanity, yet it isn't itself a particularly sentimental film, to my eyes, because it doesn't work very hard to wrench emotions out of us, or even insist on them. It just depicts an awful lot of nice, ordinary people being nice and ordinary to each other and to one particular stranger. Even cancer gets cured by the niceness.

The story is a simple one: An aging shoeshiner in  0 Comments on Telluride at Dartmouth: Le Havre as of 1/1/1900
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12. Nonfiction Monday: Flesh and Blood So Cheap

Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and its Legacy Albert Marrin

It's probably about time I got around to reviewing the book that I nominated for the MG/YA Nonfiction Cybils.

While this book is about the tragic fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, it's about so much more. Much of the book is about placing the fire in context. We're more than half-way through the book before the actual fire. Marrin instead details the immigration boom between the Civil War and WWI. He explores the tenements and the life that many of the Triangle workers led. There's some great stuff on photographer Jacob Riis and income inequality on Manhattan. There's a history of the sweatshop and how garment manufacture moved from home-based piecework to the factory. We also get information on the labor movement up until that point in time.

And then comes the devastation of the fire and the aftermath-- both in the local sense of judgements and sentences handed down (or not) and the larger impact on worker's rights.

There's also great information on how the mob became linked with unions and the history of the garment industry since the Triangle fire.

I most appreciated the end section on the modern sweatshop and the double-edged sword of sweatshop labor. Not even that it allows us cheap clothing, but that while, to a Western eye, these jobs seem horrible and inhumane, often in the locale of the sweatshop, its seen as a very good job with a much higher earning potential and better working conditions than anything else out there. It's a complicated issue that has more gray than we like to think, and I was happy to see it so well presented in a book for younger readers.

All in all the fire, the context, and the effects are presented and explained really well. There are several black-and-white photographs to illustrate the text and bring turn-of-the-century New York to life.

Today's Nonfiction Monday Round-up is over at Books Together.

Book Provided by... my wallet

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13. Read the first three chapters of Summer of the Mariposas!

Loved Under the Mesquite? For a limited time, we’re sharing the first three chapters of Belpré winner Guadalupe Garcia McCall’s next book, Summer of the Mariposas, out in October! Summer of the Mariposas is a YA retelling of The Odyssey about five sisters who embark on a road trip through Mexico to return a dead [...]

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14. Talking for PBS

Last year PBS came to my house to film a testimonial about the influence of public television in my life. This is what they have released just recently:

Hermosa Gente.

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15. Border Crossing

Border Crossing Jessica Lee Anderson

Manz's mother is an alcoholic, a sometimes painter who is still reeling from a stillbirth. His dead father was crazy. Manz's best friend has an abusive father.

Manz and Jed get a job over the summer at a local ranch where Manz meets Vanessa, one of the kitchen worker. Only, when Manz hears about Operation Wetback*, he starts thinking that the government is starting it up again. Even though Manz is a citizen, US-born of a white citizen mother, the voices in his head tell him everyone else is in on it, tell him that the government will ship him to Mexico, unless he can stop it.

As the voices grow louder and louder, Manz can't stop them, can't not do what the tell him. He doesn't realize that no one else can hear them.

On the surface this is an ISSUE NOVEL. Paranoid Schizophrenia! Alcoholism! Domestic Abuse! Immigration! Dead babies!

But, in execution, told through Manz's eyes it's not heavy-handed. It's just the way things are. The real story is Manz's worsening condition. Anderson does a good job of letting the reader know what is "real" and what isn't. Part of this is that she does a good job of setting everything up before Manz starts to lose his grip on reality.

It's a fast-moving, compact book. I like the ending-- there's resolution, without it being super-tidy.

Interestingly, I just saw this photo on another book jacket--American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar. Same cover photo, different nationalities. Hmmm...

Operation Wetback was a pretty extreme anti-illegal immigration/deportation program in the early 50s.

ARC Provided by... the publisher, at ALA a few year ago.

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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16. Please Look After this Bear - Charlie Butler

Immigration is a hot political topic at the moment, both here and in the States. In the wake of recent immigration laws in Arizona, which many see as legitimizing racial profiling, the image above gained a certain notoriety. It's shocking because Dora the Explorer, the inquisitive Latina created by Nickelodeon, lives in a world that is not only geographically imprecise (is she Mexican? American? South American? Her makers are careful not to say), but blissfully free of violence, or even significant conflict. For all her exploring, Dora will never have to scale a 14-foot metal fence on the north shore of the Rio Grande. To put her face on a mug shot is thus a grimly-effective way of saying, "This is what 'Homeland Security' really means." Dora may seem out of place here; but she also reminds us that a good many of the immigrants, refugees and displaced persons in the world are children.

The poster works, in fact, by crossing another kind of border - the border between Dora's safe world and the decidedly dangerous one inhabited by many of her viewers. No one goes to Dora the Explorer looking for life at its seamiest; for many, indeed, her adventures may offer welcome escape. This isn't, however, to make a case for children as innocents whose minds must never be intruded upon by real-life unpleasantnesses. Children's books have frequently taken on difficult topics - and novels such as Gaye Hicyilmaz's Smiling for Strangers, to name just one, deal realistically with the hardship and prejudice faced by children who find themselves living as illegal immigrants.

However, the republic of children's literature has many provinces. Elsewhere, particularly in the regions of the fantastic, different rules have tended to apply. Many fantasy stories involve long quests and journeys between different lands and even worlds; but these journeys are seldom conceived in terms of immigration, legal or otherwise. Did Lucy Pevensie obtain a visa to enter Narnia? I'm afraid not, even if her brother Edmund got official permission to send for the rest of the family. ("You let one Son of Adam in, and before you know it they're running the country!") Similarly, Frodo Baggins spent a long time finding ways to sneak into Mordor, a very determined immigrant indeed. The Black Gate would have put even the Department of Homeland Security to shame; but Sauron is unlikely to have seen it in quite those terms.

Closer to our own world, Paddington Bear's adventures often involve minor brushes with officialdom, but on his initial journey from Peru to England an absence of immigration papers doesn't seem to have been a problem. A simple luggage label was sufficient; or perhaps he just gave the immigration officer a Hard Stare? Then again, perhaps Peruvian immigration just wasn't such an issue in 1958. The past, after all, is another country.

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17. The Deep Politics of the 14th Amendment

By Elvin Lim

In 2004, the Republican’s hot button political issue du jour was same-sex marriage. 11 states approved ballot measures that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Last week, a federal judge struck down California’s Proposition 8 (passed in 2008) because it “fails to advance any rational basis for singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license.”

However, Republicans politicians are not taking the bait to revisit this hot button political issue, despite Rush Limbaugh’s encouragement. One explanation is that Republican voters are already angry and motivated this year, and they are concerned about the economy and jobs. There is no need for Republicans to exploit a get-the-vote-out issue this year.

But, that is exactly what some Republicans have done, just not on the marriage issue. Instead, prominent Republicans like Senator Lindsay Graham and presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty are directing their attention this year on repealing the 14th Amendment, and in particular the provision guaranteeing birthright citizenship.

So is it or is it not “the economy, stupid,” for Election 2010? I think it’s about something even bigger than the economy. It’s about the power of the federal government, which increased dramatically with the passage of the 14th Amendment.

Consider that the first sentence of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment (“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside”), which established the priority of national citizenship over state citizenship. While there were references to citizenship in the Constitution of 1789, the Framers did not define the content of citizenship in part because there was little need, at the time, to consider the idea of national citizenship as opposed to state citizenship. The nation as we know it today was not fully developed until the Civil War.

Read in totality, the first Section of the 14th Amendment isn’t so much a grant of birthright citizenship – the content of the first sentence – but a constraint on states’ rights, the point of the second: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” We know this to be historically accurate. Since the 1930s, the “equal protection” and “due process” clauses have been used against state actors to extend the scope and depth of federal governmental powers.

Fast forward to the 2010, and it is no coincidence that almost everything up for political debate today and in November has something to do with the power of federal government versus states’ rights, whether it be Arizona taking it upon itself to write its own immigration policy and the Obama administration insisting that immigration policy is a federal prerogative, or Missouri primary voters rejecting the federal (“Obamacare”) mandate that all individual citizens must buy health insurance, or Californians deciding in Proposition 8 that only marriages between a man and a woman are valid in their state. If the unifying thread in these agitations is the perception of a bloated, out-of-control federal government, it is also worth noting that the major resource for the aggrandizement of the government has been the 14th Amendment.

The Republican Party of 2010 is not the Republican Party of 1868, the year the 14th Amendment was ratified. The GOP, back then, believed in federal preemption of states’ rights. Democrats were the ones who were wary of federal power. The Rep

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18. The English Language Unity Act: Big Government Only a Tea Partier Could Love

By Dennis Baron

Tea Partiers seem intent on throwing more and more of the American government overboard. Yet there’s one area where both these wing nuts and many ordinary conservatives support more big government, not less: they want the government to make everyone in America speak English.

Christine O’Donnell, an upstart Tea Party candidate who beat a more traditional Republican congressman in Delaware’s senate primary, says that she “will fight to make English America’s official language for all governmental purposes,” adding, “We cannot be one people without speaking ONE language in common.” In 2007 O’Donnell told FoxNews that American scientists deep in their underground laboratories had created mice with “fully functioning human brains”—experiments which she opposes, unless of course the researchers can guarantee that the mice will speak English.

Tea Partiers support official English because they believe that not speaking English is prima facie evidence that you’re an illegal immigrant who swam across the Rio Grande. They’ve forgotten that English itself is an immigrant language, not just in the U. S. of A., where it clambered ashore “without papers” along with the pilgrims and the Virginia colonists in the early 1600s, but also in England, where, though it wasn’t called English, ‘the language of the Angles,’ till it got to Britain, it swam the North Sea with marauding Angles and Saxons in the 5th century, CE. Everyone in the Tea Party seems also to forget that these English-speaking illegals eventually turned merry old England into a socialist state with government-run health care.

Despite the fact that English has now gone global and is spoken by more people across the planet than any world language ever before, some Americans fear that English is endangered at home. That’s why Iowa’s Rep. Steve King, a career politician who wants government out of our lives (except for banning abortions and term limits), but firmly believes that government must dictate our language preference, bullied Iowans into passing an official English law in 2002. King scared Iowans with Census figures showing that the state’s Hispanic population had doubled since 1990, going from 1% to 2%, ignoring the fact that more than half of the state’s 80,000 Spanish speakers also spoke English well or very well and the rest were learning it as fast as they could. King then successfully sued his own state for posting election information on its website in languages other than English in violation of the new official English law, further demonstrating his belief that it is the job of government to meddle with the lives of citizens and limit their individual choices.

King then introduced the English Language Unity Act of 2009 in the House of Representatives in order to make English the official language of the United States. H.R. 997 requires English for all official government actions, everything from our laws, which are already in English, to anything that the government does that is “subject to scrutiny by either the press or the public,” which seems to cover everything from committee reports, hearings, and press briefings subject to the Freedom of Information Act, to the sexual peccadilloes and personal indiscretions that some members of Congress keep inadvertently exposing to the scru

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19. 6 Things You May Not Know About the Passport

By Craig Robertson

1) The passport in its modern form is a product of World War I.  During the war most countries introduced emergency passport requirements that became permanent in the 1920s under the guidance of the League of Nations. Prior to World War I in the absence of required passports and visas immigration and government officials along the U.S. border used people’s physical appearance to determine if they were entitled to enter the country. Inspectors were confident they knew what an “American” looked liked, along with their ability to “recognize” non-citizens who where banned such as prostitutes, imbeciles, and those too sick to work.

2) Middle-class and the more well-to-do resisted the implementation of passport requirements creating what was labeled the “passport nuisance” in the 1920s. With little experience of the need to prove identity through documents the passport became the site where people objected to perceived affront of a government not trusting its citizens. Identity documents were for people who could not be trusted such as criminals and the insane. They were not for people who simply wanted to travel.

3) The federal government did not claim universal birth registration until 1930; in the early 1940s the Census Bureau estimated that 40% of the population did not have a birth certificate. This example of the limited administrative reach of the federal government hindered attempts to create a rigorous application process for the passport.

4) Prior to the 14th Amendment free African Americans used passport applications to support their citizenship claims. These applications for optional passports exploited the tension between federal and state citizenship and inconsistencies in State Department passport policy.

5) The State Department frequently used the passport promote good behavior and to discourage behavior that could be considered inappropriate especially in regard to the family: in an era of optional passports the State Department encouraged the issuance of one passport for married couple or an entire household in the name of the husband; in the late 1880s the State Department refused to issue passports to Mormons traveling abroad on the grounds they were assumed to be recruiting people for polygamy; in the early 1920s the State Department fought with some success a demand that married women be able to get passports issued in their maiden names.

6) From 1928 until 1977 two women ran the Passport Division, both of who were ultimately forced out of their positions. Appointed in 1928, Ruth Shipley the first woman to head a division in the State Department became notorious, publicly represented as “Ma Shipley” the individual who read and decided on all passport applications. For opponents Shipley’s Passport Division was “government by a woman, rather than by law.” She was removed when her refusals, often done without recording reasons in files, became part of   controversy over the denial of passports to suspected communists in the early 1950s. She was replaced in 1953 by Francis Knight who quickly earned the title “the J. Edgar Hoover of the State Department” but oversaw passports for a quarter of a century before being removed.

Craig Robertson is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Northeastern University. His new book, The Passport in America: The History of A Document, examines how “proof of identity” became so crucial in America. Through addressing questions of identification and surveillance, the history of the passport is revealed.

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20. Shooting Kabul

Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai

A family of five escapes from Taliban-ruled Afghanistan in the dark of night. They throw themselves aboard a truck along with numbers of other desperate people, just minutes ahead of the patrolling Taliban. They are on their way to America. Only something unbearably horrible has happened: the youngest, six-year-old Mariam, did not make it aboard the truck–and there is no going back to get her.

Many stories start with an event that drives the rest of the story with its cry for resolution. This event, in the first pages of Shooting Kabul, grips the rest of the story with a barely containable wail for resolution. Yet Sensai manages to pace the everpresent anguish with the reality of any immigrant family adjusting to life in America in a very realistic and non-maudlin way.

The narrator of this story is Mariam’s 11 year-old brother Fadi. Fadi let go of Mariam’s hand as they were jumping in the truck and thus bears a heightened burden of guilt. His struggle to deal with his guilt as he tries to fit into his new life makes up the bulk of the story. The resolution is satisfying without being trite.

This is a perfect book for middle school readers who like to read about people caught up in real, historically significant events, who are driven to understand more about their wider world. The tragedy that Fadi experiences will grab their interest and their empathy.


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21. Red Glass

Red Glass by Laura Resau is my latest YA read. I wasn't sure going in how well I would like it, but came out THOROUGHLY enjoying it. Resau has crafted a novel that made my heart go out to immigrants - the struggle they go through to get here, and why many of them choose to leave their countries. It was a fun love story - clean for our younger YA readers - and I appreciated that too. The book really resonated with me - Sophie is a strong female character that you won't soon forget - she overcomes so many obstacles to find out how strong she really is. And Pedros' story - the little boy that finds himself all alone in the U.S. after the rest of his group was killed trying to make their way into the U.S. is heart-wrenching. Great read - HIGHLY recommend it!!

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22. Architects of Memories

Wells, Rosemary and Secundino Fernandez. My Havana: Memories of a Cuban Boyhood. Illus. by Peter Ferguson. Candlewick, 2010. Ages 8-12.

Memories can move us forward or backward, depending on how we use them. My Havana: Memories of a Cuban Boyhood evokes the intensity of one child’s connection to his home in 1950s Havana. Prolific children’s book author Rosemary Wells once heard a radio interview with the Cuban-American architect Secundino Fernandez and years later located Fernandez and worked with him to produce this resonant little historical novel burnished with hope and light.

Secundino, or Dino, relishes his city avenues “lined with coral-stone archways, ancient doors, and window frames painted bright as birds-of-paradise.” As twilight arrives, neighbors begin their checker games, and the cafes fill with people. Dino loves to sketch the buildings, with their porticoes and marble columns. The first time Dino leaves the city of his heart, he crosses the Atlantic to spend time with his grandparents in Spain. When he finally returns home, he expects to stay. Dictators — first Batista, then Castro — take over, though, and the family abandons their restaurant to join relatives in New York City.

So homesick in this dark and dreary new environment, Dino relies on his memory to recreate his beloved Havana in the confines of his bedroom. With great care, he cuts out cardboard to represent its archways, balconies and cafes. Aluminum foil glued to plywood and glazed with blue nail varnish becomes a sparkling turquoise harbor. The double-spread illustration depicting the imaginative boy, scissors in hand, beautifully captures his resourceful nature. The novel closes with Dino adapting to his new world: “New York sunlight, shimmering with the promise of summer, settles round my shoulders like the arms of my mother. It is almost like my Havana.” This brief novel would brighten units on immigration, Cuba, or architecture.

Macaulay, David. Built to Last. Houghton Mifflin, 2010. Ages 9 and up.

In my decade as a school librarian, I often watched children poring over Macaulay’s remarkable architecture books. Rather than merely compiling his acclaimed books, Castle, Cathedral, and Mosque, Macaulay has created new colored illustrations, revised the text, and clarified some explanations.

While some might still long for the previously published cross-hatched illustrations, Macaulay’s changes enhance the reader’s experience of the architecture of the past. He ushers us into his Castle, for instance, with a double-spread illustration of a purple-robed king surveying a map, with pawns awaiting strategic placement. The castle Macaulay highlights is imagined but based on castles built for the conquest of Wales between 1277 and 1305, His interesting perspectives of the workers and how they go about building still capture the hearts of readers, young and old. In Cathedral, Macaulay was inspired by the 13th-century Gothic cathedrals of France. It’s hard to resist sharing Macaulay’s passion for the plans, methods and tools used by those builders “whose towering dreams still stand today.” Finally, the least changed a

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23. Review of Velvet Totalitarianism

My review of Velvet Totalitarianism by Claudia Moscovici is now posted on www.amazon.com

Filed under: Becoming Alice Tagged: immigration, oppression, totalitarianism

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24. Illegal - Review

Illegal by Bettina Restrepo
Publication date: March 8th by Harper Collins/Katherine Tegen Books
ISBN 10: 0061953423 / ISBN 13: 9780061953422

Category: Young Adult Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Keywords: Realistic Fiction, Illegal Immigration, Gangs

From goodreads.com:

A promise.

A promise that we would be together on my fifteenth birthday...

Instead, Nora is on a desperate journey far away from home. When her father leaves their beloved Mexico in search of work, Nora stays behind. She fights to make sense of her loss while living in poverty—waiting for her father's return and a better day. 

When the letters and money stop coming, Nora decides that she and her mother must look for him in Texas. After a frightening experience crossing the border, the two are all alone in a strange place. Now, Nora must find the strength to survive while aching for small comforts: friends, a new school, and her precious quinceañera.

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25. National Poetry Month: Inside Out and Back Again

Black and White and Yellow and Red

The bell rings.
Everyone stands.
I stand.

They line up;
so do I.

Down a hall.
Turn left.
Take a tray.
Receive food.

On one side
of the bright, noisy room,
light skin.
Other side,
dark skin.

Both laughing, chewing,
as if it never occured
to them
someone medium
would show up.

I don't know where to sit
any more than
I know how to eat
the pink sausage
snuggled inside bread
shaped like a corncob,
smeared with sauces
yellow and red.

I think
they are making fun
of the Vietnamese flag
until I remember
no one here likely knows
that flag's colors.

I put down the try
and wait
in the hallway.

September 2
11:30 am

Inside Out and Back AgainInside Out and Back Again Thanhha Lai

I got to review this wonderful novel for School Library Journal. My full review is here.

If you don't want to click over and read, here's the takeaway:

1. It got a star
2. Sensory language describing the rich smells and tastes of Vietnam draws readers in and contrasts with Hà's perceptions of bland American food, and the immediacy of the narrative will appeal to those who do not usually enjoy historical fiction

Book Provided by... School Library Journal, for review

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