The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom

At South High School in Denver, Colo., Eddie Williams teaches an English Language Acquisition class for newcomers to the U.S. Many of his teenage students have survived war, displacement and other traumas before they immigrated; others are unaccompanied minors or undocumented. All of them face the challenge of not only learning English, but adjusting to life in a new culture. Journalist Helen Thorpe spent a year in Williams's class, observing and befriending the students and learning their stories. She shares their experiences and her own in her insightful, keen-eyed third book, The Newcomers.
Thorpe (Soldier Girls) delves into the complex politics of the students' home countries and sets the students' narratives against the backdrop of the global refugee crisis, the 2016 American presidential election and the fraught atmosphere surrounding immigration. But The Newcomers is far from dour. It brims with life and humor, through the personalities of the students themselves: exuberant Lisbeth, witty Saúl, shy Abigail and their classmates. Thorpe grows particularly close to Jakleen and Mariam, sisters from Iraq who came to the U.S. via Turkey, with their younger sister and mother. Throughout the school year, Thorpe traces the students' progress with compassion, touching on many facets of newcomer life: government benefits, assimilation into school and community activities, difficulties with jobs and transportation, the aching loneliness of the foreigner.

Meticulously researched, thoughtful and timely, The Newcomers provides a vital and joyous window into the lives of teenagers searching for a new home in the U.S. and asks important questions about Americans' willingness to welcome the stranger. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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