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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: immigration, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 64
1. Undermining society – the Immigration Act 2014

By Gina Clayton

Immigration it seems is always in the headlines. While UKIP and others make political waves with their opposition to European free movement, immigration is said to be one of the biggest issues of voter concern. However, the issues that make the headlines are only a tiny part of the picture. Restricting immigration is treated as an uncontroversial objective. Some air time, though less, is given to the damage done to migrants by restrictive laws and policies. Very little attention is given to the damage done to the social fabric by those same laws and policies, and to the reality that measures targeting migrants have an adverse effect on all of us.

In the last months of 2013 and the first of 2014 the Immigration Bill made its way through Parliament. Surprisingly, as immigration was a dominant political theme at that time, its provisions received minimal media attention. Provisions of the Immigration Act 2014 include:

  • All rights of appeal against immigration decisions are abolished, except where the decision is to refuse international protection or where removal would breach the Refugee Convention or the appellant’s human rights.
  • Banks and building societies are prohibited from opening accounts for individuals ‘who require leave to enter or remain in the UK but do not have it’.
  • Driving licences may not be issued to those who require leave but do not have it.
  • Charges for health care are to be levied on all migrants.
  • Landlords will be subject to penalties if they let property to individuals who ‘require leave to enter or remain in the UK but do not have it’.

The abolition of rights of appeal against immigration decisions comes after years of attrition of immigration appeal rights, and it is only this previous attrition that reduces the impact of these new measures.


Interestingly, an earlier episode of attrition of appeal rights was commented upon by Tony Blair in 1992:

“It is a novel, bizarre and misguided principle of the legal system that if the exercise of legal rights is causing administrative inconvenience, the solution is to remove the right. […] When a right of appeal is removed, what is removed is a valuable and necessary constraint on those who exercise original jurisdiction. That is true not merely of immigration officers but of anybody.”

Some effects of s.15 Immigration Act 2014 can be predicted:

  • There will be no independent remedy for an individual who has suffered due to a mistake.
  • There will be less incentive to improve Home Office decision-making.
  • Studies, work, and life plans of migrants and their families will be disrupted.
  • Employers and universities may lose employees and students.
  • Judicial review will likely proliferate.

When a student’s studies are prematurely ended or a specialist worker has to leave the country, not only they but others around them are affected. As well as the employer or university, friendships, treatment plans, agreements with landlords, voluntary work obligations, all are disrupted. Migrants do not live in isolation.

Most of us can accommodate to misfortune, but injustice is harder to live with. If our friend, our student or our colleague has not been able to put their case, what is the effect on our confidence in our own system of government? There is no right to be heard. Does this not have an impact on our belief in what are famously described as ‘British values’?

The prohibition on holding a driving licence, opening a bank or building society account not only affects the person who cannot get access to these basic features of ordinary life in the UK, it also affects the person who must decide whether to issue a licence or open an account.

A bank or building society employee must now assess a potential customer’s immigration status. Whether they wish to do so or not, the staff member is exercising a form of internal immigration control.

Bank and building society accounts have become essential to live ordinary life in the United Kingdom. People will be denied access to these facilities on faulty grounds. Bank and building society employees will find that their relationship with their customers has changed from service to scrutiny. All of us will be subject to immigration status checks.

The measures restricting access to private tenancies, bank and building society accounts and driving licences are not, as such, immigration control. They are penalties on those already resident. They apply not only to government matters but also to purely commercial and private transactions. They insert mutual surveillance into social relationships.

It was revealed by Sarah Teather MP that the government working group some of whose policies found their way into the Immigration Act was called ‘the Hostile Environment Working Group’. In the Immigration Act we are being recruited to the project of the hostile environment. We are required to treat other people as disentitled, not to a government benefit, which in the end we know is determined by government, but to a private facility. This asks us to change our perceptions of each other, and as such is hostile to us all.

Gina Clayton works on European asylum and migration projects, including reports for the Fundamental Rights Agency and the AIDA database, chairs refugee charities in South Yorkshire, and is an OISC adviser on asylum law. She is the author of Textbook on Immigration and Asylum Law.

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2. Five reasons why Spain has a stubbornly high unemployment rate of 26%

By William Chislett

The Spanish economy roared along like a high-speed train for a decade until it slowed down dramatically in 2008. Only recently has it emerged from a five-year recession. But the jobless rate has tripled to 26% (four times the US level) and will not return to its pre-crisis level for up to a decade. Why is this?


(1)   The economic model was excessively based on the shaky foundations of bricks and mortar.

Between 2000 and 2009, Spain accounted for around 30% of all new homes built in the European Union (EU), although its economy only generated around 10% of the EU’s total GDP. In one year alone (2006), the number of housing starts (762,214) was more than Germany, France, and Italy combined. After Spain joined the euro in 1999, interest rates were low, property was seen as a good investment in a country with very high home ownership (85%), and there was a high foreign demand for holiday and retirement homes due to the 60 million tourists who visited Spain annually.

When the property bubble burst, jobs were destroyed as quickly as they had been created. As construction is a labor intensive sector, its collapse reverberated through other areas of the economy. Between 2002 and 2007, the total number of jobholders, many of them on temporary contracts, rose by a massive 4.1 million, a much steeper rise than in any other EU country and more than three times higher than the number created in the preceding 16 years. Since 2008, more than 3 million jobs have been lost, around half of them in the construction and related sectors.

(2)   Labor market laws were too rigid.

Spain has a dysfunctional labor market: even at the peak of the economic boom in 2007, the unemployment rate was 8%, a high rate by US standards. At the hiring end, Spain’s labor market laws were very flexible, largely as a result of widespread use and abuse of temporary contracts, but at the firing end, severance payments were higher than in comparable countries. This made employers reluctant to put workers on permanent contracts. The reforms approved in 2012 by the conservative government of the Popular Party, which returned to power at the end of 2011, lowered dismissal costs and gave companies the upper hand, depending on their financial health, in collective wage bargaining agreements between management and unions. The reforms have yet to have a discernible impact on job creation. They have, however, lowered the GDP growth threshold for net job creation from around 2% to 1.3%. The Spanish economy is expected to grow by more than 1% this year.

(3)   The property sector caused a banking crisis and corruption to flourish.

The 45 regionally-based and unlisted savings banks, which accounted for around half Spain’s financial system, were closely connected to politicians and businessmen. Many of them made reckless loans to developers and were massively exposed to the property sector when it crashed. The reclassification of land for building purposes and the granting of building permits, in the hands of local authorities, created a breeding ground for corruption. Bad loans soared from 0.7% of total credit in 2007 to more than 13%. The European Stability Mechanism came to the rescue of some banks in 2012 with a €41 billion bail-out package in return for sweeping reforms. The number of savings banks has been reduced to seven, with high job losses. Spain exited the bail out in January.

Spain was ranked 40th out of 177 countries in the latest corruption perceptions ranking by the Berlin-based Transparency International, down seven places from the year before. Its score of 59 was six points lower than its previous score in 2012, in a numerical index where the cleanest countries are those closest to a score of 100. Spain lost more points than almost every other country, topped only by war-torn Syria.

(4)   The education system is in crisis.

The education system is holding back the need to create a more sustainable economic model. One in every four people in Spain between the ages of 18 and 24 are early school leavers, double the EU average but down from a peak of one-third during the economic boom, when students dropped out of school at 16 and flocked in droves to work in the construction and related sectors. Almost one-quarter of 15-29 year-olds are not in education, training, or employment. Results in the OECD’s Pisa international tests in reading, mathematics, and scientific knowledge for 15-year-old students and for fourth-grade children in the TIMS and PIRLS tests are also poor. No Spanish university is among the world’s top 200 in the main academic rankings. Research, development and innovation spending, at 1.3% of GDP, is way below that of other developed economies. In these conditions, the creation of a more knowledge-based economy is something of a pipe dream, and the brightest young scientists and engineers are emigrating.

(5)   Spain received more immigrants in a decade than any other European country.

Immigrants were lured to Spain when the economy began to expand rapidly. Their number soared from more than 900,000 in 1995 to 5.7 million in 2012, the largest increase in a European country in the shortest time. They were particularly needed in the construction and agricultural sectors, as there were not enough Spaniards prepared to work in them. At the peak of the boom in 2007, more than half of the 3.3 million non-EU immigrants in Spain worked in the construction sector. When the economy went into recession, immigrants bore a large part of the surge in the unemployment, as many of them were on temporary contracts and were the first to lose their jobs. The jobless rate among immigrants (37%) is much higher than that for Spaniards (24%). Immigrants only began to return to their countries in significant numbers in 2012 and Spain’s population declined by 500,000 in 2013, an unprecedented fall in the country’s modern history.

William Chislett is the author of Spain: What Everyone Needs to Know. He is a journalist who has lived in Madrid since 1986. He covered Spain’s transition to democracy (1975-78) for The Times of London and was later the Mexico correspondent for the Financial Times (1978-84). He writes about Spain for the Elcano Royal Institute, which has published three books of his on the country, and he has a weekly column in the online newspaper, El Imparcial.

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3. #557 – Larry and Friends by Nat Jaspar & Carla Torres

Larry&Friends-CoverLarry and Friends

written by Nat Jaspar

created and illustrated by Carla Torres

Tangerine Books    3/01/2014


Age 7+       48 pages


“Larry and Friends is a captivating story about immigration and integration told in both English and Spanish language versions. The protagonist, Larry the Dog, is a juggler from Brooklyn and his friends are a diverse set of animals from all over the world. The story recounts why the characters end up relocating to New York City, how they became friends with Larry and how life has taught them a thing or two.”


“Every day should be a happy day. At least that’s what Larry the dog thinks.”

The Story

Today is Larry’s birthday. All of his friends, from all over the world, arrive to celebrate. Living in New York has given him the  opportunity to meet and befriend so many creatures that are both interesting  and unique in both body and spirit. As Larry is making last minute preparations for his birthday celebration, the doorbell rings. “Ringadingadong!” Who could that be this early?

It is Magda, the Polish Pig. Magda is Larry’s partner, very good at organizing, and she should be able to help Larry get all his last minute decorations ready for the party. Not long after, “Ringadingadong!” Henrick, the Irish Hare has arrived bearing a birthday gift for Larry: a special song he wrote just for Larry. Henrick is fond of craic, which means having a fun time with good conversation. All through the evening the doorbell rings, “Ringadingadong!” New and old friends from near and far show up at Larry’s doorstep, all with a unique skill, family background, and a gift for Larry. The reader learns about each guest, barely finishing before the doorbell rings, “Ringadingadong!”


Larry and Friends is a fast moving introduction to some amazing and definitely unique characters, all Larry’s friends, all ready to celebrate his birthday. Each character has a unique story relating to finding their way to New York and the job they do—most all are in the entertainment industry in one way or another.


Cecilia, the Peruvian Llama, was destined to be sheered her entire life for the benefit of the local artisans, who created things from her wool. Not willing to endure such a hard life Cecelia jumped the fence, and kept running until she reached New York, never looking back. Now she sings at the club Silencio and wears fancy clothes, none of which are made of llama wool by Peruvian artisans.

Gugu, the African Zebra is a grass expert. With only one male zebra—one stallion—allowed per family, Gugu had to leave his home. He decided to go where no other zebra as ever gone—New York City. He is now the lead percussionist at the Apollo Theater. As with the other guests, Gugu has a motto that keeps him going. For Gugu, it is, “Aim high. Look how well it worked for me!” Also very superstitious, Gugu knocks on wood.

Twenty-one anthropomorphic animals, including Larry, gather in a small apartment in New York. Everyone has gathered to celebrate Larry, but in his or her own way have celebrated themselves. The illustrations have amazing color, are bright, cheerful, and extremely detailed. The illustrated page immediately strikes you with the passion of the artist. My guess is the animals, the illustrations, arrived first and then the story found life.


Each animal displays his or her talent, origin, or new lifestyle. It is too bad there is not a story involving these characters—all or some—other than an introduction, which is really all Larry and Friends is. The introductions are interesting, some are educational, and all are entertaining, but not in a real story kind of way. After a dozen ringadingadongs, Larry and Friends becomes rather tedious.

Kids can still learn a lot about immigration, friendship, and family. More than that is the spirit each character exudes that has kept them on top of his or her world, happy, motivated, and philosophical. Many of the character’s life mottos are worth repeating. Here are three:

“All knowledge is worthless, unless it is shared.” ~ Bernard, the French Gargoyle

“Where there is adversity, there is opportunity.” ~ Rimshi, the Tibetan Yak

“The important thing is always to be yourself, no matter who stares at you” ~ Laila, the Iranian Cat

The story, as told in the first page, is a birthday party, but readers are not invited to the party. Readers get the guest list. As unique and interesting as these introductions to Larry’s friends may be, they do not amount to a real story. The running theme of a birthday party holds these individuals together. The real story begins and ends with each new character. After all 20 are present, have told their story, and given Larry a gift, the actual celebration begins with food and drink, birthday cake and whatever else a group of interesting people with varied backgrounds do at such gatherings. When the party begins, the book abruptly ends. The reader is not invited to the actual party. Seems unkind.

2 .

LARRY AND FRIENDS. Text copyright © 2014 by Nat Jaspar. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Carla Torres. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Tangerine Books, New York, NY.

For a younger interpretation of Larry and Friends, check out Erik’s review at This Kid Reviews Books HERE.


Learn more about Larry and Friends HERE.

Buy a copy of Larry and Friends at Amazon—B&N—Tangerine Booksyour local bookstore.


Meet the author, Nat Jaspar, at facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/natjaspar

Meet the creator and illustrator, Carla Torres, at her website:  http://www.carlatorres.com/

Find Larry and Friends at the Tangerine Books website:  http://www.larry-and-friends.com/




larry and friends

Filed under: 4stars, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, Picture Book Tagged: anthropomorphised animals, Carla Torres, children's book reviews, friendship, Immigration, life mottos, Nat Jaspar, New York City, Tangerine Books, the melting pot

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4. Do immigrant immigration researchers know more?

By Magdalena Nowicka

The political controversies over immigration intensify across Europe. Commonly, the arguments centre around its economic costs and benefits, and they reduce the public perception of immigrants to cheap workforce. Yet, increasingly, these workers are highly skilled professionals, international students, and academics. Their presence transforms not only labour markets but also the production of knowledge and, in the end, it changes the way we all perceive immigrants and immigration.

US American scholars were first to draw attention to how immigrant scholars influence the academic field. The historian of migration Nancy Foner claimed a decade ago that the increasing group of students and faculty who study and work abroad — immigrants to the United States — heavily change the way immigration is perceived in social sciences. Immigrant scholars — according to Herbert J. Gans, a German-born American sociologist — contributed to the paradigm shift in American migration studies, from assimilationist to retentionist approach. They did so, because they were ‘insiders’ to the groups they studied; they were immigrant researchers researching immigrants.

A century ago, public interest (and funds) fueled studies on immigration by sociologists, demographers, economists and historians. The results of their studies were widely spread by journalists, novelists and mass entertainment industries. Now, budget cuts in higher education, and the increase of impact-seeking funding of the European Union, foster the concern about the societal benefits of social sciences. Paradoxically, the public interest in research on immigrants seems to fall, and academics apparently lose their capability of influencing broad publics and the politics in Europe, the boats on Lampedusa being a symbol of this problem.

Visa Application

For scholars who reply to short-term concerns of national public policy, the urgent question is the effectiveness of transfer of knowledge between academic and other systems that is driven by the hope for formulating better policies. Some scholars are yet reluctant to actively participate in public debates because they see their scientific objectivity in danger. The position of those scholars researching immigration who are immigrants themselves is no less ambivalent: they may play the ‘ethnic card’ to secure funding for research and access to people whom they want to study. Financial reasons may compel many to do research in their native country and they also meet the suspicion of fellow academics that tend to suspect they might lack scientific distance and objectivity.

What societal roles are available for immigrant researchers researching immigrants? Too often we look for answers to this question by tracking the processes of policy decision making, by investigating the “big-P”-politics. We are used to thinking of production of ideas and texts as separate from the impact we think they will have. Yet the way that knowledge is being negotiated during the production of texts is a key to understanding the role migration researchers studying immigrants play for the society.

Let us imagine a research situation, an interview, which is undoubtedly the most widely applied technique for conducting systematic social inquiry: a researcher typically asks questions and listens carefully to the stories the respondent tells. While one of them may say less and the other more, they interact. Interviews are interactional, and during this situation, both the researcher and the researched subject negotiate the meaning they assign to norms, values, ideas, other people, their behaviour, etc. Let’s assume both parties in this situation are immigrants. From my personal experience as an interviewer and immigrant, I recall multiple research encounters during which my interview partners prompted me to confirm their views: “you surely know, you are also an immigrant” or “you do understand me, you are also from Poland”. They presume that because of our common origin, we have a lot in common, that being an immigrant might bring us together, foster mutual understanding of problems, or even make us share the same norms and values.

But common origin does not produce ‘common individuals’, and each migration trajectory is different. It matters that I am born in Warsaw in a middle class family, have university education and work as a professor at a German university while my research subjects come from rural areas in Poland, left school early and perform manual jobs in United Kingdom. Each time I ask a question and they answer it, each time I prompt them — seemingly impersonally and in a highly controlled fashion — to continue narrating, my interview partners and I question the latent national and ethnic categories of commonality. Unintentionally, in the course of such research encounter, when confronted with misunderstandings or incomprehension, we revisit our gendered, ethnic, class, or professional identities.

For most researchers, such experiences are common and obvious. But they reflect on them in a self-referential fashion, addressing the issue to colleagues subscribing to journals on methodology of qualitative research. They aim at improving the quality of research but the meaning of this self-reflection is deeper and should be communicated to wider audiences.

It matters that when the researcher is an immigrant herself: it influences the research process, the access to research subjects and funding, and the way results of the studies are interpreted (because the researcher is sympathetic, or empathetic, to particular problems of her respondents). More importantly, immigrant immigration researchers are capable and predisposed to reveal the artificiality of fixed categorisations assigning people to places on the map and positions in social hierarchies. When they do so, they show us a possibility for new, better, modes of societal integration. In countries like Germany that have long been shaped by low-skilled immigration and public discourses around it, there is a minor but growing interest in the perspectives of immigrant researchers. Through stronger engagement in dialogue with wider audiences, the immigrant researchers can accelerate this trend. This much needed change of perspective has a chance of becoming mainstream if immigrant researchers talk about their work and research experiences with more self-confidence.

Prof. Dr. Magdalena Nowicka is from Humboldt-University in Berlin. She is a co-author of the paper ‘Beyond methodological nationalism in insider research with migrants‘, which appears in the journal Migration Studies.

Migration Studies is an international refereed journal dedicated to advancing scholarly understanding of the determinants, processes and outcomes of human migration in all its manifestations, and gives priority to work presenting methodological, comparative or theoretical advances.

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5. 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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6. 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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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.

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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.

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16. “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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17. 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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18. 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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19. 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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20. 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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21. 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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22. 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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23. 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

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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24. 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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25. 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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