When asked about the concept of home, many of us might conjure up visions of family together at a dinner-table or of vacation. We often think of a physical location, like a house, a street, a neighborhood or a city. But is that home? Or is home something more elusive, maybe harder to grasp or explain, especially if our idea of home is not of a house, or yard or neighborhood? This month, we look at books that address the concept of home and how that concept might be different from the typical or stereotypical. In The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman, we start with a group of orphans living under a bridge in Chennai, India, and then move to a young girl who understands home is where her dog is. We then discuss a longer migration that involves moving from Syria to the U.S. and end with the concept of home perhaps being an object of hope we can hold in our hands, keep in our hearts or imagine with our minds.
What can you do once you decide that you can no longer watch your abusive father beat your mother and his rage extends to you and your sister? You can run away and try to make it on your own. That is what Viji does, taking her sister Rukku with her. Rukku is cognitively challenged, but this does not stop either sister from leaving their small village to find their way in the streets of Chennai, India. They are greeted with both kindness and challenges by those around them, eventually settling with two orphaned runaways under a decrepit bridge with tarp tents. This works until the monsoon season and its mosquitoes, chilling dampness and sickness. Viji has to make decisions about this new family, eventually leading them to hope, but not without tragedy first. A lovely narrative about the resilience of children in harsh conditions, the love and care needed to overcome, and the faith needed to face the future. Readers will hope with Viji, Rukku and their two new brothers as they learn to overcome in a world not often kind to children. -Recommended by Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH. Continue reading
By Michele Ebersole, University of Hawaii, Hilo, HI, and Yoo Kyung Sung, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM
This month Michele Ebersole and Yoo Kyung Sung explore the deep and complicated theme of “sense of belonging.” Michele began by creating a text set with a focus of sense of Hawai’i. When she shared it with Yoo Kyung, it helped them explore that sense of place could be a sense of belonging, sense of responsibility, sense of excellence, sense of total well-being, sense of aloha, etc. Perhaps for New Mexico, it would take a sense of high desert, turquoise, Indigenousness, and sense of North and South. They think that “sense of belonging” may capture different dynamics in stories of communities and also reflect young people’s lives within a community as space. The four books they chose illustrate various faces of communities; they show that community is something you enter as a new member and sometimes you are a small community itself. Sense of belonging is a process of making sense of who you are and where you are. This theme unfolds with the four books presented this month through different characters and various locations such as India, Caribbean, and the U.S. They begin with The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman.