By Michele Ebersole, University of Hawaii, Hilo, HI, and
Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM
Continuing with the theme of “sense of belonging” in books for young people, Michele Ebersole and Yoo Kyung Sung read and discuss stories that capture the dynamics of a community and reflect young people’s lives within a community as space. Sense of belonging is a process of understanding who you are and where you belong. This theme unfolds alongside a sense of isolation in Hurricane by Kheryn Callender.
MICHELE: Hurricane Child took me by surprise. It presents a different way to look at a sense of belonging compared to the other books we read this month. We read: The Bridge Home, Islandborn, and The Dollar Kids which seem to capture a sense of belonging through anchoring in a place or community. With The Bridge Home, the main character runs away from home and finds safety and security through building relationships with others in the community. In Islandborn, the main character, Lola, discovers a sense of belonging through others in her community and in The Dollar Kids, Logan, has to forgive himself after his friend’s death and develops a sense of belonging with his family in a new community. Like the other characters in these stories, in Hurricane Child, Caroline struggles to belong; however, my personal reading was that she is driven by her emotional suffering and battle to survive in her cruel and confusing world. Perhaps it is her present-tense voice that captured my attention as I read the story. The story takes place in an exotic setting, the US Virgin Islands, and provides the reader with an alternate perspective on what life can be like beyond a visitor or “tourist experience.” Caroline did have support from some of the others in her world, such as her father, the principal, and her friend Kalinda, but felt lost and alone and lost without her mother who abandoned her. She didn’t have the same support system from others within her community throughout the story. In the end, she finds her inner strength and comes to grips with those around her. This was a powerful read for me and I believe I can provide the foundation for having a rich discussion on sense of belonging.
YOO KYUNG: Earlier this month, we read The Dollar Kids, which is a story focused on the struggle for community acceptance. Hurricane Child is the opposite: a story of isolation in a community. A community can be a warm and supportive unit, but it also can be a cold and indifferent being. This allows for isolation to occur and accept it as it is. This story did not unfold how I excepted, with Carolina’s identity living in Water Island and going to school in the U.S. Virgin Island. Instead, this is a story of isolation, bullying, racism, girls’ friendship, parents’ adultery and spiritual curiosity in islands. I find that this story leaves more questions in the authentic representations of the island’s community and cultures. The island’s setting was useful for an exotic story. However, I find the protagonist’s journey of looking for her missing mom and wrestling with what she sees is not explainable and invites audiences to think of a small, inner world that she creates when she disconnects with community and peers’ cultures.
Title: Hurricane Child
Author: Kheryn Callender
Date Published: March 27, 2018
Throughout August 2019, Michele and Yoo Kyung give their takes on books on the theme of a sense of belonging. Check back each Wednesday to follow the conversation!