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Starting a Conversation With Elders Who Moved Here From Another Country

Excerpted from We Need Diverse Books, May, 2020

By Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan

This summer, our middle-grade novel A Place at the Table, will be out in time for the back to school season. It is the story of two girls who meet in a South Asian cooking class and form a reluctant friendship. Sara Hameed, a Muslim, and Elizabeth Shainmark, who is Jewish, are both first-generation children… Being first-generation impacts Sara and Elizabeth in different ways, but it also helps them form a bond.

We wrote this book to highlight authentically how immigrants are treated in this country, as well as the immense contributions they make to their new nation… As we wrote their story, we had long conversations about what it means to belong, and how children of immigrants often feel torn between their family’s home culture and fitting in as Americans.

Many first-generation Americans—like Sara and Elizabeth, like us (Laura) and our children (Saadia)—wonder what our family members’ lives were like in their country of origin. We might want to know what it feels like to be an immigrant. … Laura surveyed her friends, asking, “What questions would you like to ask elders in your family about coming to the United States?” we invite you to sit down with a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or older friend who came here from another country. Share a cup of tea or hot chocolate and pick a few questions from the printables below to ask them.

You can find the full blog post at We Need Diverse Books here.

 

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Laura Shovan

Laura Shovan is the author of the award-winning middle grade novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. Her second book, Takedown, is a Junior Library Guild and PJ Our Way selection. Look for A Place at the Table, co-written with Saadia Faruqi, in 2020. Laura is a poet-in-the-schools Maryland.

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