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October 2017 Selections

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This month, we'll read books about immigrant and refugee experiences. We had a large number of titles to consider for this theme, and in selecting these stories we wanted to represent the experiences of people from all different areas of the world. In the current political climate, immigration is a topic that has people divided. Here in the DBC, we believe that no human is illegal, and we want to honor not only the experiences of immigrants and refugees, but also provide opportunities for understanding and empathy from those of us who haven't had experiences that relate to this topic.

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In the month of October, you'll once again have THREE books to choose from, in addition to a selection of picture books.

REMINDER: YOU DO NOT NEED TO READ ALL THREE BOOKS!

Choose the book (or books) that most interest you and follow along with those discussions, but don't feel obligated to read every title on our list.


ADULT FICTION SELECTION:

MUSIC OF THE GHOSTS BY VADDY RATNER

Thank you to Touchstone Books for partnering with the DBC this month and providing copies of this novel to our adult fiction moderators. Music of the Ghosts is powerful -- it haunted me as I read and lingered with me well after finishing. The story follows Teera, a young woman who, in childhood, fled from her home in Cambodia during the violent reign of the Khmer Rouge. In Music of the Ghosts, Teera returns to Cambodia for the first time since fleeing, and there confronts the history of her country and family. Ratner's prose is lyrical -- her writing had me so completely immersed in the story that I could feel the sensory aspects of Teera's surroundings. This story is heavy, and full of terror and loss, but it's also a story of healing and love. Ratner herself was a refugee from the Khmer Rouge, and we on the DBC Team strongly believe this book deserves to be in the hands of more readers. Our Twitter moderator, Gina, will be reading this selection alongside members this month.


YOUNG ADULT/MATURE MIDDLE GRADE SELECTION:

REFUGEE BY ALAN GRATZ

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Every person that I know who has picked up this title since it was published in July of this year has raved about it. This is the one that I'll be reading alongside members this month, but when I brought it up in a DBC Team meeting, one moderator who had already read it insisted that it be on our list. In her words, "This should be required reading for children and adults." Refugee is told in three narratives: Josef, a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany, who must flee from the threat of concentration camps; Isabel, a Cuban girl in 1994 who boards a raft bound for America with her terrified family, and Mahmoud, a Syrian boy in 2015 who flees to Europe with his family as the Syrian war threatens their safety. I can tell it's going to be an emotional read for me, as I interact with Syrian refugee children on a daily basis at work and my heart breaks at the idea of what they've experienced. 


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I read this novel for a children's literature course back in graduate school and it blew me away, so as soon as we decided on this theme I knew it had to be on our list. Inside Out and Back Again is a novel in verse, so for adult readers it'll be a quick read. (It's also on the Newbery list, for those of you who are doing your own Newbery projects, you'll be able to check it off your list!) The story follows Hà, a ten year old girl who must flee when the Vietnam War threatens her home in Saigon. Her family settles in Alabama, and Hà finds herself missing her homeland and the vividness of her culture. I loved reading the perspective of a young child in this novel, and it certainly changed the way I interact with immigrant and refugee students at our school. This story is largely based on Thanhha Lai's own experiences, as she herself fled Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War and relocated to Alabama. Teachers, parents, and librarians: I hope this earns a spot on your shelves.


WHY DO WE HAVE TWO MIDDLE GRADE TITLES THIS MONTH?


Kate Olson, of Kid Lit Exchange, recommends it for grades 5-8 and we agree with that recommendation. It's a heavy read and not appropriate for younger audiences. Inside Out and Back Again, however, is perfectly appropriate for middle grade readers of all ages. So if you've been using DBC picks with your children, we recommend Refugee for 5th grade and up, and Inside Out and Back Again for all other young readers. If you're not using these titles with the littles in your life, we'd definitely recommend reading both -- and because Inside Out and Back Again is so short, we think it will be relatively easy to manage both picks this month.