Refugee High: Coming of Age in America

Elly Fishman. New Press, $25.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-62097-508-4
Journalist Fishman debuts with an intimate and moving chronicle of the 2017–2018 school year at Sullivan High School in Chicago, where nearly half the student body was born in another country. Fishman explains that principal Chad Adams, who arrived in 2013, set out to turn the struggling school around by increasing funding for the English language learner program. Deeply personal interviews reveal how Sullivan students—ID’d by first names only—struggle with unstable home lives and anxieties over their immigration status. Sixteen-year-old Shahina, a Burmese refugee, escapes an arranged marriage but has to help pay back the $2,000 her mother was given as an engagement gift; meanwhile, Alejandro, a senior, fears that he’ll lose his asylum hearing and be sent back to Guatemala, where 10 of his friends have recently been killed in gang violence. Sullivan staff members provide emotional support in addition to English language instruction, and try to assuage worries caused by President Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies. Fishman unearths the inner lives of her subjects with care and precision, and skillfully balances lighter moments (soccer games, TikTok dances) with harrowing turns of events. The result is a powerful portrait of resilience in the face of long odds. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 05/10/2021
Release date: 08/01/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 978-1-62097-509-1
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