Narratives that Explore the Immigrant Experience: Background information when reading Picture Us In The Light

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Picture Us In The Light

by Kelly Loy Gilbert

Picture Us In The Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert X
Picture Us In The Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2018, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2019, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Michelle Anya Anjirbag
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About this Book

Narratives that Explore the Immigrant Experience

This article relates to Picture Us In The Light

Print Review

Picture Us In the Light adds to readers' consciousness of the immigrant experience – and the experience of children of immigrants in the United States. But it is not the only novel that does this. Children's and young adult texts in particular are consciously addressing these issues from wider and wider lenses, providing unique experiences, increased representations of diversity, and speaking to wider demographics. In doing this, they are widening the conversation and perception of "immigration issues." This list curates young adult books that exemplify this. Check out some of these other suggestions:

A Land of Permanent GoodbyesA Land of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi
Abawi's gripping story of a Syrian teen trying to keep what's left of his family safe and together after losing everything they had in a bombing is a must read. As Tareq and his sister look for a refuge in Europe, never knowing if they will survive the journey, the reader is swept up into the arduousness of their lives with every sense deployed. With this narrative, Abawi brings the stories that have become ubiquitous in the news to life in a way that cannot be brushed away as a distant problem.

You Bring the Distant NearYou Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins
Mitali Perkins's You Bring the Distant Near traces the lives of five Bengali women across three generations: sisters Tara and Sonia, their mother Ranee, and eventually, their daughters, Anna and Chantal, as they navigate the intricacies of interwoven cultural identities, and move from India, to London, then New York City, and finally, New Jersey. Simultaneously rooted in a particular immigrant experience while remaining completely accessible to others, it is an immigrant story, an American story, a coming of age story, a story about family journeys, and, ultimately, a story about hope, loss, and change. This book reminds readers about the joy and freedom of being able to choose who you will become, without compromising where you are from.

The Unforgotten CoatThe Unforgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce
This middle grade novel unpacks the mystery of two young boys who immigrated from Mongolia to London. BookBrowse reviewer Tamara Smith writes: "Julie (their year six teacher) is an active and vital participant in discovering who [they] really are, and thus the reader is too. Frank Cottrell Boyce doesn't exaggerate any part of this story – the boys are not overly sentimentalized; their connection with Julie is not too thickly drawn; their mystery is not melodramatic." The Unforgotten Coat teaches readers to be curious about others, to recognize what they don't know, and to want to learn about the lives of other people.

AudacityAudacity by Melanie Crowder
Audacity is a historical novel in verse detailing the life of a real life immigrant activist, Jewish teenager Clara Lemlich. Lemlich immigrated from Russia to New York City in the early 20th century and became a strong voice in the movement for factory workers' rights. BookBrowse reviewer Sharry Wright writes: "[This] is an unforgettable and inspiring story that I would recommend to both teens and adults who like literary historical fiction with a strong female protagonist and to educators who will find this serious, spare novel a great choice for workers' and women's rights history lessons."

The Sun is Also a StarThe Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Nicola Yoon's novel takes place over 12 hours in New York City, alternating between the first-person perspectives of Natasha and Daniel, two strangers with very different histories. Natasha's family, who are undocumented immigrants, are waiting to be deported to Jamaica, while Daniel, the son of Korean immigrants, has high expectations for college and career resting on his shoulders. As they begin to fall for each other, the reader gets swept up in questions of fate and coincidence and explores two very different kinds of American experiences.

The ArrivalThe Arrival by Shaun Tan
This is one of the most beautiful immigrant stories written – or perhaps more aptly stated – drawn. The graphic narrative explores many different angles in a man's journey to start a life in a new land. Tan's illustrations are in tones of sepia to look like antique photographs, and depict, frame by frame, the journey itself, what the man leaves behind, the journey his family takes to meet him, and their new lives in a new place. Because of the completely alien and fantastic conceptualization of the spaces and inhabitants in the new place, the reader becomes an "immigrant" too, destabilized in a new environment, learning a new place, and understanding what it is to build a new normal. And all of this is conveyed without a single word, wrapped up in myriad different narrative threads, that readers can explore time and again.

Filed under Reading Lists

This "beyond the book article" relates to Picture Us In The Light. It originally ran in May 2018 and has been updated for the August 2019 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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