Friday, April 15, 2011

First Crossing: Stories About Teen Immigrants

"What I have can never -- and should never be -- copyrighted. What has been passed on to me is harder than any hardware, softer than any software. A series of words, a sequence of movements -- a story, a dance, these things Grandma passed on to me, these things that are almost sacred in their simplicity. And they are mine, yet they belong to me only as much as the flame of a candle belongs to its wick. When the candle is melted away, the flame is passed on -- that's all."

Title: First Crossing: Stories About Teen Immigrants

Editor: Donald R. Gallo

ISBN: 978-0-7636-3291-5

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Copyright: 2007

Plot Summary: Each of the short stories within this collection tell the story of an immigrant teen with a problem. The problems vary from a Mexican teen trying to cross the border with his father to get work in the United States, an adopted teen trying to find her birth-parents, a Russian teen fighting for a normal life in the wake of strict parents, and a Chinese teen attempting to explain the nuances of her culture to an American friend, and failing. After struggling with their problems, the teens each reach some sort of resolution and continue to an outcome that varies between the positive and negative, depending on each short story. However, within each story the characters change and grow individually, especially in their regard to the culture that they live in and the people that they deal with.

Critical Evaluation: Each author of First Crossing's short stories weave a brief and yet gripping and well-rounded web of characters and plot within their low word count stories. The narrators are, for the majority, sympathetic and understandable fears and problems that they have to deal with, problems that many teen readers will understand. The variety of their ethnicities is important and also allows insight into different cultures, as well as the ability for teens of that culture to find a guide / protagonist that will connect to them the strongest. As a whole, the stories all shared the theme of teens trying to fit into a situation that they find strange or different from what they are used to, which is a universal coming-of-age theme. While the cast of characters within each short story is limited, the protagonist is almost always fleshed out with enough detail to be connectible.

Reader's Annotation: First Crossing is a compilation of immigrant teen lives, from teens crossing the Mexican-American border to Cambodians who help in their parents shop and footballers facing racism and discrimination.

Information About the Editor: "Donald R. Gallo is one of the country's leading authorities on books for teenagers and is a recipient of the ALAN Award for Outstanding Contributions to Young Adult Literature....
A former junior high school teacher and university professor of English, he currently works as an editor, writer, English Journal columnist, workshop presenter, and interviewer of notable authors" (Biography taken from First Crossing).

Genre: Immigration fiction; Immigrant teens; Prejudice

Curriculum Ties: Social Studies and Immigration

Booktalking Ideas:
  • How do the trials and struggles of the teen narrators in this collection of short stories mirror the coming of age issues that non-immigrant teens have?
  • Compare and contrast two very different teen narrators from the short stories, such as a teen who sneaks across the border for work with his father and a Cambodian teen who helps her parents in all matters English.
Reading Level: 16+

Challenge Issues N/A

Why This Book?: Library book list recommendation

Reference Page:
Gallo, D. R. (2007). First Crossings: Stories About Teen Immigrants. Massachusetts, Candlewick Press.

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