Monday, April 18, 2011

Tell Us We're Home

"She hated self-pity. She hated people who gave up, slumped against life. Just like her father, wrapped in his shawl of surrender. Everything was fate, he said. What about second chances? she wanted to shout. Isn't this why we came here? You haven't even tried! But Mr. Svetloski was deaf t o the noise and hope of her sister, Nadia. That's why Lola loved holing up in her bedroom and reading about the American Revolution. She admired those rebels. How they were loud and pushy, how they could make something completely new. "

Title: Tell Us We're Home

Author: Marina Budhos

ISBN: 978-1-4169-0352-9

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Copyright: 2010

Plot Summary: Tell Us We're Home alternates points of view between three teenage immigrant girls: Jaya, Maria, and Lola. Each chapter presents a narrator and the world that she lives in, including their mothers, the homes that they clean, and the families that they live with. Each girl has similar issues that they have to deal with, such as feeling out of place in a rich suburb and going to school with the girls who see their mothers cleaning the floor. Each girl is unique, however, and struggle through their lives in different manners, dealing with the problems in their own way. Jaya loves Mrs. Harmon, an elderly lady who hired her mother to tidy up, and has struggles with herself when Mrs. Harmon has a stroke and is hospitalized. When the house is put up for sale, a broach and earrings are discovered missing and the blame is immediately laid upon Jaya's mother. Turning to her friends, Jaya realizes that they also have their own issues, such as Maria's budding romance with a white boy and Lola's hatred of her father who struggles with depression and her mother who is working herself sick.

Critical Evaluation: The use of multiple points of view to weave together a storyline that is coherent and richly detailed. The very different lives of Jaya, Maria, and Lola are done in a manner that allows readers to understand the glimpses that they catch as well as realize that there are cultural differences that need to be experienced in order to fully appreciate them, such as when Maria interacts with her love interest. With three narrators, it allows readers of all types to find someone that they relate to the most, whether it is the fiery Lola who is not afraid to pick a fight for something she believes in, quiet and faithful Maria, or strong-willed Jaya. The use of flashbacks to show how the three girls first met could have been written in a less confusing manner, as there was nothing used to denote a change in time and space, nor were there great differences in the characters that would show a younger. The dialog within the story was entertaining but the use of language could have been increased instead of brief Spanish phrases.

Reader's Annotation: Three immigrant teens meet up in a single suburban neighborhood and instantly bond, as their mothers are all maids and nannies for the rich families that they go to school with. When one of their mothers is accused of stealing a piece of jewelery, everything, including their friendship, threatens to go up in flames.

Information About the Author: Budhos usually writes for adult audiences in fiction as well as nonfiction. Tell Us We're Home is her first Young Adult novel and she enjoys to delve into the complexity of cultures thrown together.
Budhos has also written the books Ask Me No Questions and Remix: Conversations with Immigrant Teenagers. Read more about the author at her website.

Genre: Suburban Fiction; Friendship; Immigrant Teens

Curriculum Ties N/A

Booktalking Ideas:
  • How does the use of three protagonists allow for the best glimpse into the varying cultures within American society? Would the novel have been as strong if it stayed with a single immigrant teen and her perception of her neighborhood and her friends?
  • How do the three girls change throughout the book? Compare and contrast their original personalities and then how they end up by the end of the book.
Reading Level: 15+

Challenge Issues N/A

Why This Book?: Staff recommendation

Reference Page:
Budhos, M. (2010). Tell Us We're Home. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

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