The nonfiction genre is arguably the best for finding great reads because every story is undoubtedly going to be unique. So, by this logic, this compilation of over 35 different immigration stories from English Language Development students in Spokane, Washington, was sure to be a bittersweet, inspiring, and heart-wrenching with every chapter. And when I say this assumption was right, I mean it. “Finding Refuge: Real-Life Immigrant Stories from Young People” was one of the best books I’ve read this year.
The book is broken into four parts for regions immigrants come to the United States from: Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Americas. Each part is made up of different countries, about five each except for the Americas which has two. For every country there are one or two stories written by Victorya Rouse’s students about their life before, during, and after immigrating to America. Provided for each chapter is a short synopsis of the country’s history, why people leave, and a map of where it is.
Stories come to life with reference images to go along with them. Written in the students’ unique voices, every story feels like a conversation with a friend. Hardships, achievements, and painful but inspiring messages of hope, perseverance, and sacrifice are shared openly with readers. No one story is like the other, but they all share a common thread: one way or another, these students found themselves in Spokane, Washington, with a new life ahead of them and family, friends, their home, and their old life behind them. In the short epilogues that follow each story, students reflect on how they felt then, how they’ve grown, and what they’re doing now.
I cannot express with just words how this book made me feel. The roller coaster of emotions that runs through every story is definitely something that a reader should prepare for. No matter how much or how little you might relate to these stories – no matter if you are reading to connect with those like you or to learn about people who are different – this book is a must-read for everybody.
If I could give one critique, not even related to the stories themselves, it would be that the student’s pronouns be included under their name. This would provide the reader just a little more insight into the students’ lives and give just a little more context for the experiences and struggles they write about. However, the lack of this in no way makes this book any less important, eye-opening, and inspiring.