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- Why I picked it up: Multicultural, unusual concept
- Disclosure: Received a final published edition from Lyn Miller-Lachmann.
Jaya, Maria, and Lola are just like the other eighth-grade girls in the wealthy suburb of Meadowbrook, New Jersey. They want to go to the spring dance, they love spending time with their best friends after school, sharing frappés and complaining about the other kids. But there’s one big difference: all three are daughters of maids and nannies. And they go to school with the very same kids whose families their mothers work for.When I saw the words "eighth-grade" on the inside flap, I was surprised. Despite the success of middle grade novels along the lines of Esperanza Rising, there seems to be little multicultural middle grade lit that explores how kids of other cultures get along, not just in their "own" countries, but in the United States. True to that first impression, this novel continued to surprise and delight me through the ups and downs of all three girls, despite a few annoying flaws and the age difference between me and the protagonists.
That difference grows even bigger—and more painful—when Jaya’s mother is accused of theft and Jaya’s small, fragile world collapses. When tensions about immigrants start to erupt, fracturing this perfect, serene suburb, all three girls are tested, as outsiders—and as friends. Each of them must learn to find a place for themselves in a town that barely notices they exist.
Tell Us We're Home is a moving and thought-provoking story about the other side of the American dream. Marina Budhos gives us a heartbreaking and eye-opening story of friendship, belonging, and finding the way home.
I do wish that Marina Budhos could have pared down the triple perspective to that of one of the girls, because tripling the perspective certainly tripled the amount of time it took the story to get off the ground. I can see a number of middle schoolers struggling through the first five or six chapters, and also struggling to keep the numerous supporting characters, families, and friends straight. However, I can't really decide which perspective I would have preferred, as all three girls were intriguing, believable, and stereotype-shattering.
If this book had a singular "message", "theme", or "issue", I would guess it would be stereotypes. The stereotyped foreign maid that struggles with English, the untrustworthy nanny, etc., etc. I enjoyed how far beyond those stereotypes we traveled. While the Spanish from Maria's perspective felt rather like it had been stuck through an online translator, unfortunately, perhaps hers was one of the most meaningful parts of the story, as we face so many prejudices and stereotypes about Latinos, especially Mexicans. Then again, it was also nice to see other, less common immigrant cultures represented, too.
In the end, while it feels like the author was still learning her chops, the book is extraordinary in its breaching of taboo topics - even as it maintains an appeal to its target audience. It crackled with emotional tension without resorting to profanity, sexual content, or extraordinary violence. If you are looking for multicultural fiction to read aloud or share with middle schoolers, this would be an excellent choice, one I certainly plan on passing on to my little sister.
The Final Verdict: Clumsy in places, but unique and fresh, especially in a stuffy middle school market. Four out of five stars.
Being the daughter of a maid or nanny, it wasn’t like everyone was so bad or mean or stupid. It was just weird. You knew your mother put extra bleac ...more