Timely Teen Read About Somali Immigrants

 Out of NowhereTom lives in a semi small town in Maine.  We get the idea that it is not very diverse until large numbers of Somali immigrants relocate there.  Tom is a star soccer player.  Due to the wave of new students, several Somali boys join his team.  The boys, especially Saeed, are incredible players.  The town has plenty of challenges, especially when the mayor writes and open letter in the paper to the Somali community.  A number of people are not happy about the new members of their community, including Tom’s uncle.    Tom gets in trouble for doing a prank on his school’s bitter rival.  To make up for it he has to do community service.  He does that service at a community center that serves the Somali population.  He helps children with homework.  Tom has a girlfriend that his parents don’t approve of.  She is a bit of a bully to some of the Somali girls.  Tom has to make some decisions about the kind of person he wants to be.  When he meets a college girl who works at the center, it does help with the decisions.  I was lucky enough to work at a library that served a large Somali population.  I found  Padian’s portrayal of the culture very authentic.  The characters will be easy to relate to for young readers in both cultures.  The part where Tom makes a huge cultural mistake is very painful to read because the aftermath seems so extreme.  It is a good book to introduce tolerance for young readers.  I highly recommend it.  My favorite moment is when the coach has a talk with Tom and says this, “It’s hard to fear someone, or be cruel to them, when you know their story.”
Some ideas for discussing with teens:
Talk about what it must be like for a community with a rapidly changing demographic.  Have you ever experienced something like this at your school?
Talk about how Tom broke up with his girlfriend.
Discuss the part on page 47 when Tom talks about “seeing an angel” when Saeed kicked the ball.
Discuss the conversation on pages 78-79 when the Somali students explain their culture.
Talk about how some of the students and teachers wanted an “English only zone.”  Do you think this is fair?  Why or why not?
Discuss Tom and Saeed’s relationship.
Discuss how Tom’s relationships with Myla and Cherisse.
Talk about the differences between Tom’s school and Maquoit.
Discuss Tom’s parents decision not to have Tom in the expensive soccer camp.
Discuss how Saeed’s sister, Samira feels about Tom.
Talk about the mayor’s letter in the newspaper to the Somali people.
Talk about the hug and the negative impact it had on Saeed’s family.
Discuss Samira’s letter and this passage on page 330.  “She’s lucky not to be furious.  Because she couldn’t control it.  None of it: not civil war, not losing her father, not Cherisse Quellette, not Minneapolis, none of it.  And yeah, its hurts and it’s hard.  But raging only makes things harder.  So she’s lucky to put that away and get on with her life as it is.  She makes what choices she can, and she does it with grace.  And hope.”
Talk about whether it is bullying if you don’t know the person.
Discuss this passage on page 254.  “It’s hard to fear someone, or be cruel to them, when you know their story.  And aren’t you lucky?  Knowing all these stories that Alex never hears?  Tom, the fact is, life isn’t fair and bad things happen to good people.  But there are angels in this world, and sometimes the good guys win.”

Creepy Classic Dystopian Is Great Read While You Are Waiting For The Catching Fire Movie


Feed by M.T. Anderson was the definitive dystopian book before the Hunger Games exploded.  I am looking forward to meeting him next week so I finally read this book.  I’d been planning to read it forever.  Titus is a teen who lives in a world where all internet, TV and any other technology you can dream of downloads right into his brain via “the feed.”  Titus thinks nothing of taking a trip to the moon with his buddies to unwind.  During that trip a hacker taps Titus and his friends on their shoulders and shuts down the feed. During this trip, Titus meets Violet and she has a way of looking at the world that is different than him and his friends.   Feed has one of my favorite first lines in all of YA lit, “We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.”  Anderson was ahead of his time.  While reading this book, I can’t help think of modern technology.  The new operating system of the iphone comes to mind.  Are we catching up with Anderson’s dystopian world?  It makes for fascinating discussion.  There is a discussion about cutting down a forest to build an air factory.  The meat farm is especially creepy.  This book is filled with interesting irony.

Some ideas for discussing with teens:

If the feed was an option for you, would you want it if it was the newest must have thing?

Discuss how the feed compares to our current technology such as smart phones and tablets.

Talk about their visit to the farm.  How is it the same or different than other farms you may have visited?

Discuss this passage, “It’s like a spiral: They keep making everything more basic so it will appeal to everyone.  And gradually, everyone gets used to everything being basic, so we get less and less varied as people, more simple.  So the corps make everything even simpler.  And it goes on and on.”  (Pg. 97)

Discuss this passage, “When no one was going to pay for the public schools anymore and they were all like filled with guns and drugs and English teachers who were really pimps and stuff, some of the big media congloms got together and gave all this money and bought the schools so that all of them could have computers and pizza for lunch and stuff, which they gave for free, and now we do stuff in classes about how to work technology and how to find bargains and what’s the best way to get a job and how to decorate our bedroom.” (Pg. 110)

Discuss how Violet said everything was better if you delayed it on page 143.

Talk about Violet’s father’s unusual way of talking so that vocabulary is not lost.  Talk about how language changes with each generation.

What does Titus mean when he says Violet, “It sometimes feels like you’re watching us, instead of being us.” (pg. 168)

Talk about how Quendy gets lenticels.  Why would someone do that to themselves?

Discuss Violet’s rant on page 202.

Discuss the conversation between Titus and Violet’s father when he says, “We Americans are interested only in the consumption of our products.  We have no interest in how they are produced and what happens to them.” (pg. 290)