This comprehensive take on American immigration history is strong on facts and weak on analysis.

AMERICAN IMMIGRATION

OUR HISTORY, OUR STORIES

Beginning with the arrival of the continent’s first Indigenous inhabitants and ending with events following the 2016 election, this book chronicles the social, cultural, and political trends that have shaped the United States’ historically fraught relationship with immigration.

Krull contextualizes important pieces of legislation such as the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, tracing how everything from labor demands to world wars shaped American attitudes toward newcomers. The text is peppered with profiles of immigrants, ranging from the children onboard the Mayflower to cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who immigrated to the States from China via France, and Apple founder Steve Jobs, whose birth father and adoptive mother were both immigrants. Laudably, Krull categorically dismisses the classification of slaves as immigrants, and she frankly recounts the genocide of Native Americans. Too often, though, Krull approaches immigration from a deficit mentality. For example, she characterizes immigrants who are learning English as poor performers in school rather than framing them as bilingual; uncritically recounts America’s openness to “any able-bodied immigrant”; and praises the fact that ”all” newcomers to America “have assimilated,” without acknowledging the cultural loss that entails. Most problematically, she asserts without any context that “it’s human nature to be suspicious of people different than us,” seemingly excusing the very xenophobia the book clearly wishes to fight.

This comprehensive take on American immigration history is strong on facts and weak on analysis. (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-238113-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A rich and deeply felt slice of life.

JUST PRETEND

Crafting fantasy worlds offers a budding middle school author relief and distraction from the real one in this graphic memoir debut.

Everyone in Tori’s life shows realistic mixes of vulnerability and self-knowledge while, equally realistically, seeming to be making it up as they go. At least, as she shuttles between angrily divorced parents—dad becoming steadily harder to reach, overstressed mom spectacularly incapable of reading her offspring—or drifts through one wearingly dull class after another, she has both vivacious bestie Taylor Lee and, promisingly, new classmate Nick as well as the (all-girl) heroic fantasy, complete with portals, crystal amulets, and evil enchantments, taking shape in her mind and on paper. The flow of school projects, sleepovers, heart-to-heart conversations with Taylor, and like incidents (including a scene involving Tori’s older brother, who is having a rough adolescence, that could be seen as domestic violence) turns to a tide of change as eighth grade winds down and brings unwelcome revelations about friends. At least the story remains as solace and, at the close, a sense that there are still chapters to come in both worlds. Working in a simple, expressive cartoon style reminiscent of Raina Telgemeier’s, Sharp captures facial and body language with easy naturalism. Most people in the spacious, tidily arranged panels are White; Taylor appears East Asian, and there is diversity in background characters.

A rich and deeply felt slice of life. (afterword, design notes) (Graphic memoir. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-53889-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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Ultimately adds little to conversations about race.

UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A BLACK BOY

A popular YouTube series on race, “Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man,” turns how-to manual and history lesson for young readers.

Acho is a former NFL player and second-generation Nigerian American who cites his upbringing in predominantly White spaces as well as his tenure on largely Black football teams as qualifications for facilitating the titular conversations about anti-Black racism. The broad range of subjects covered here includes implicit bias, cultural appropriation, and systemic racism. Each chapter features brief overviews of American history, personal anecdotes of Acho’s struggles with his own anti-Black biases, and sections titled “Let’s Get Uncomfortable.” The book’s centering of Whiteness and White readers seems to show up, to the detriment of its subject matter, both in Acho’s accounts of his upbringing and his thought processes regarding race. The overall tone unfortunately conveys a sense of expecting little from a younger generation who may have a greater awareness than he did at the same age and who, therefore, may already be uncomfortable with racial injustice itself. The attempt at an avuncular tone disappointingly reads as condescending, revealing that, despite his online success with adults, the author is ill-equipped to be writing for middle-grade readers. Chapters dedicated to explaining to White readers why they shouldn’t use the N-word and how valuable White allyship is may make readers of color (and many White readers) bristle with indignation and discomfort despite Acho’s positive intentions.

Ultimately adds little to conversations about race. (glossary, FAQ, recommended reading, references) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-80106-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2021

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