My Name Is Jorge: On Both Sides of the River

A collection of 27 insightful poems that illuminates the migrant experience from the point of view of a grade school child from Mexico. Jorge doesn’t want to be called George. He thinks the name sounds strange. “What an ugly sound!/Like a sneeze!” His struggles to fit in result in a friendship with a boy named Tim; a tentative coming to terms with American society; and some degree of sadness when, upon his grandmother’s death, his family must cross the river again.

A Girl Named Faithful Plum

In 1977, when Zhongmei Lei was eleven years old, she learned that the prestigious Beijing Dance Academy was having open auditions. She’d already taken dance lessons, but everyone said a poor country girl would never get into the academy, especially without any connections in the Communist Party of the 1970s. But Zhongmei, whose name means Faithful Plum, persisted, even going on a hunger strike, until her parents agreed to allow her to go. She traveled for three days and two nights to get to Beijing and eventually beat out 60,000 other girls for one of 12 coveted spots. But getting in was easy compared to staying in, as Zhongmei soon learned. Without those all-important connections she was just a little girl on her own, far away from family. But her determination, talent, and sheer force of will were not something the teachers or other students expected, and soon it was apparent that Zhongmei was not to be underestimated. Zhongmei became a famous dancer, and founded her own dance company, which made its New York debut when she was in just her late 20s.  In A Girl Named Faithful Plum, her husband and renowned journalist, Richard Bernstein, has written a fascinating account of one girl’s struggle to go from the remote farmlands of China to the world’s stages, and the lengths she went to in order to follow her dream.

The Fitzosbornes in Exile

Michelle Cooper combines the drama of pre-War Europe with the romance of debutante balls and gives us another compelling historical page turner.Sophia FitzOsborne and the royal family of Montmaray escaped their remote island home when the Germans attacked, and now find themselves in the lap of luxury. Sophie’s journal fills us in on the social whirl of London’s 1937 season, but even a princess in lovely new gowns finds it hard to fit in. Is there no other debutante who reads?!And while the balls and house parties go on, newspaper headlines scream of war in Spain and threats from Germany. No one wants a second world war. Especially not the Montmaravians—with all Europe under attack, who will care about the fate of their tiny island kingdom? Will the FitzOsbornes ever be able to go home again? Could Montmaray be lost forever?

The Bite of the Mango

The astounding story of one girl’s journey from war victim to UNICEF Special Representative. As a child in a small rural village in Sierra Leone, Mariatu Kamara lived peacefully surrounded by family and friends. Rumors of rebel attacks were no more than a distant worry. But when 12-year-old Mariatu set out for a neighboring village, she never arrived. Heavily armed rebel soldiers, many no older than children themselves, attacked and tortured Mariatu. During this brutal act of senseless violence they cut off both her hands. Stumbling through the countryside, Mariatu miraculously survived. The sweet taste of a mango, her first food after the attack, reaffirmed her desire to live, but the challenge of clutching the fruit in her bloodied arms reinforced the grim new reality that stood before her. With no parents or living adult to support her and living in a refugee camp, she turned to begging in the streets of Freetown. In this gripping and heartbreaking true story, Mariatu shares with readers the details of the brutal attack, its aftermath and her eventual arrival in Toronto. There she began to pull together the pieces of her broken life with courage, astonishing resilience and hope.

See the review at WOW Review, Volume 3, Issue 4

Pablo Neruda

Once there was a little boy named Neftalí who loved wild things wildly and quiet things quietly. From the moment he could talk, he surrounded himself with words. Neftalí discovered the magic between the pages of books. When he was sixteen, he began publishing his poems as Pablo Neruda. Pablo wrote poems about the things he loved–things made by his friends in the café, things found at the marketplace, and things he saw in nature. He wrote about the people of Chile and their stories of struggle. Because above all things and above all words, Pablo Neruda loved people.

Five Thousand Years of Slavery

When they were too impoverished to raise their families, ancient Sumerians sold their children into bondage. Slave women in Rome faced never-ending household drudgery. The ninth-century Zanj were transported from East Africa to work the salt marshes of Iraq. Cotton pickers worked under terrible duress in the American South.Ancient history? Tragically, no. In our time, slavery wears many faces. James Kofi Annan’s parents in Ghana sold him because they could not feed him. Beatrice Fernando had to work almost around the clock in Lebanon. Julia Gabriel was trafficked from Arizona to the cucumber fields of South Carolina.Five Thousand Years of Slavery provides the suspense and emotional engagement of a great novel. It is an excellent resource with its comprehensive historical narrative, firsthand accounts, maps, archival photos, paintings and posters, an index, and suggestions for further reading. Much more than a reference work, it is a brilliant exploration of the worst – and the best – in human society.

Halfbreed

“I write this for all of you, to tell you what it is like to be a Halfbreed woman in our country. I want to tell you about the joys and sorrows, the oppressing poverty, the frustration and the dreams. . . . I am not bitter. I have passed that stage. I only want to say: this is what it was like, this is what it is still like.” For Maria Campbell, a Métis (“Halfbreed”) in Canada, the brutal realities of poverty, pain, and degradation intruded early and followed her every step. Her story is a harsh one, but it is told without bitterness or self-pity. It is a story that begins in 1940 in northern Saskatchewan and moves across Canada’s West, where Maria roamed in the rootless existence of day-to-day jobs, drug addiction, and alcoholism. Her path strayed ever near hospital doors and prison walls.It was Cheechum, her Cree great-grandmother, whose indomitable spirit sustained Maria Campbell through her most desperate times. Cheechum’s stubborn dignity eventually led the author to take pride in her Métis heritage, and Cheechum’s image inspired her in her drive for her own life, dignity; and purpose.