“My family came here from far away . . . because they dreamed of more,” begins the photojournalistic story documenting the experience of American immigrants. In Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land, John Coy’s text accompanies Wing Young Huie’s photography as the two work together to explore the varied and diverse life and experience of immigrants of America.
The photographs show immigrants at work, with their families, communities, both young and old. The photographs are diverse in the communities and experiences represented. What a wonderful book to share how unique and yet similar we all are. Let’s look for similarities and compassion rather than excluding each other and closing our borders.
The end of the book features each contributor’s own immigrant experience either personally or within their family history. John Coy’s family is from Poland, Bavaria, Ireland, and Scotland. His great grandparents were both born in Bavaria, but met in Minnesota in the 19th century. Wing Young Huie, who is the only one of his siblings born in America, is a first generation Chinese American. Wing has been documenting the immigrant experience throughout his photography career, and you can see more of his photography on his professional website.
To get a copy of Their Great Gift, check you local bookstore, Powell’s, or your local library.
I recently read Sarah Glidden’s nonfiction comic, Rolling Blackouts, published by Drawn & Quarterly in 2016, and it is one my favorite books this year. Glidden travelled through Turkey, Iraq, and Syria in 2011 along with two friends, reporters who had founded a journalism non-profit, and a Marine Iraqi War Veteran. Glidden documented their experience in beautiful watercolors and inked cartoon panels. The topics that Rolling Blackouts explores covers everything from the middle east refugee crisis, the rebuilding or lack of rebuilding in middle eastern cities, the difficulties immigrants and refugees have experienced from their displacement, as well as how journalism and reporting fits in with all of it. Glidden’s traveling companions and journalists are as much her subjects as the Iraqi refugees they meet in their travels. What I thought was unique about Rolling Blackouts was the documentation of the journalist experience— what kind of story her companions were hoping to find, what kind of experience they had, and how that informed their perspective and either the stories they told or hoped to tell.
In a time when journalistic integrity is constantly attacked and citizens are having difficulty distinguishing between fake news and real news, or even recognizing bias in the news they read, it’s an important topic to investigate— who’s telling the story, how are they getting their information, is there a different perspective? are views represented from differing sides, are there different sides to tell? So many of these ideas are explored by the reporters that Glidden travels with.
Glidden manages to capture so much in Rolling Blackouts. The quality of life or lack there of, the daily habits and experiences they have. The reader becomes a fly on the wall in the rooms where Sarah’s companions interview people about their experiences and begin to record and create a narrative about Iraqi refugees and the displacement the war has caused and the repercussions. Whether Glidden recorded conversations and interviews with UN employees, volunteers, refugees, or their taxi drivers, each bit of information adds to a more complete and diverse perspective. The people interviewed have had their lives forever altered, and it’s something that Americans need to read. These stories are also a part of the American war on terror. These are part of the repercussions to distant wars that we’ve been fighting for so long.
You can find a copy of Rolling Blackouts at your local independent bookstore, Powell’s, and your local library.
The Journey by Italian author-illustrator Francesca Sanna, is an emotional and poignant picture book about a family forced to leave their war-torn home. Francesca Sanna does a beautiful job in telling and illustrating a story that shares so much of the refugee crisis that is currently reshaping western and world politics.
In her author’s note she says, “The Journey is actually a story about many journeys, and it began with the story of two girls I met in a refugee center in Italy. After meeting them I realized that behind their journey lay something very powerful. So I began collecting more stories of migration and interviewing many people from many different countries. A few months later, in September 2014, when I started studying a Master of Arts in Illustration at the Academy of Lucerne, I knew I wanted to create a book about these true stories. Almost every day on the news we hear the terms ‘migrants’ and ‘refugees’ but we rarely ever speak to or hear the personal journeys that they have had to take. This book is a collage of all those personal stories and the incredible strength of the people within them.”
It is difficult to understand the complexities of politics and wars, but it is not difficult to understand basic human rights, which children so frequently excel at—understanding right from wrong, recognizing kindness or the absence of. The Journey is a testament to the physical and emotional hardships that come with fleeing your home. It provides an opportunity to share and discuss with children the complexities of the world, home and safety, and a reminder that we are all human.
You can find a copy of The Journey here and here, and your local library.