Format: hardcover nonfiction memoir
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5
What did you like about the book? Sandra is from a minority group in the Democratic Republic of Congo and experienced war from a young age. The first chapter of the book is a gripping description of the worst night of her life when her family was attacked in a refugee camp and her younger sister Deborah was murdered in the night by rebel soldiers. From there, Sandra describes her childhood, which was far from idyllic and filled with forced migration and interruptions in her education. She was lucky enough, however, to also have love and support from her parents, including support in her educational pursuits as a young girl, which is still unusual in that part of Africa. Sandra also describes a love of learning and a supportive community of friends and family in the Congo. After her family is resettled in Rwanda, they receive an opportunity to come to the United States as refugees and the entire family settles in Rochester, NY. The culture shock of coming to the United States is difficult for Sandra; she pulls away from her family and her culture for the first time and struggles to understand the complexities of race in America. Eventually, however, she faces the trauma of her past and rises to be an activist for refugees and individuals from war-torn countries on an international stage. I love everything about this book! Sandra’s story is powerful and moving. It was also interesting to hear about race and culture in America from an outsider. Most of all, this book is accessible and a quick read for a teen audience; so many students will be exposed to the refugee experience thanks to Sandra.
Anything you didn’t like about it? At the end Sandra writes about her estrangement from her family as she is coming to terms with her feelings about her ordeal. There is a section about a relationship she has with someone outside her culture, which was upsetting for her parents. I felt this section was a bit lengthy, especially since the relationship did not last.
To whom would you recommend this book? All teens, but especially teens who like learning about other cultures and the world.
Who should buy this book? all high schools and middle schools
Where would you shelve it ? Activist biography or memoir
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes; this is a really important book.
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Laura Gardner, Dartmouth Middle School, Dartmouth, MA
Date of review: July 11, 2017