Do They Hear You When You Cry by Fauziya Kassindja and Layli Miller Bashir

yellow book against brick wall

a nutshell: in this moving autobiography Kassindja records how she fled Togo aged 17 ahead of kakia (female genital mutilation) and a forced marriage, ending up in the US where she spent a horrifying 16 months in detention

a line: “I’d been lost, misplaced, like luggage gone astray”

an image: Kassindja’s memories of prison guards mistreating detainees often evoked shocking scenes, particularly how she was ostracised under entirely false suspicion of TB

a thought: among the most poignant moments in this book, for me, were Kassindja’s reunions with other women detained while seeking asylum – her story is full of powerful friendships and unconditional love often in less likely corners, for instance the commitment of her cousin Rahuf whom she hadn’t seen since childhood

a fact: 97% of detained immigrants are people of colour even though 5 of the the top 20 countries of origin for illegal immigrants are Caucasian – it isn’t that white-skinned illegal immigrants don’t come to the US, it’s that they don’t get put in detention

want to read Do They Hear You When You Cry? visit here

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez

a nutshell: incorporating an array of first-person narratives from Latino immigrants to the US, this book’s focal lens is on the complex dynamic between two families from Panamá and Mexico living in an apartment block in Delaware

a line: “You have to think like a gringa now … You have to believe that you’re entitled to happiness.”

an image: Alma recalls how she came to know her husband’s soft spots, like bruises on fruit, which in turn recalled for me the words of another character, Rafael Toro, as he remembered Panamá through the smell of car exhaust and sweet fruit

a thought: a teenage boy lets us in on how he felt it was ‘backwards’ for his parents to have fled Panamá for the US, that is, for the nation that had driven them out of theirs

a fact: Henríquez’s father is from Panamá and immigrated to the US in 1971, while her mother is from New Jersey and worked in Delaware public schools as a translator – Henríquez herself was born in Delaware but spent summers in Panamá

want to read The Book of Unknown Americans? visit here

Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Y. Davis

Red book cover with text reading: Angela Y Davis, Freedom Is A Constant Struggle

a nutshell: across 10 chapters ranging from interviews to essays to speeches, Davis incisively analyses the need to end state violence & oppression both within the US and around the world, and explores the importance of intersectional mass movements in working towards this

a line: “When one looks at the civil rights era, it was those mass movements—anchored by women, incidentally—that pushed the government to bring about change. I don’t see why things would be any different today.”

an image: it is in collectivities that we find reservoirs of hope & optimism

a thought: Davis discusses how the Black liberation movement was not only about formal rights to participate fully in society, but also substantive rights – jobs, free education & healthcare, affordable housing, an end to racist policing – and urges everyone to look up the Ten-Point Program of the Black Panther Party

a fact: citing Michelle Alexander, Davis notes there are more Black people incarcerated & directly under the control of correctional agencies in the second decade of the 21st century than there were enslaved in 1850

want to read Freedom Is a Constant Struggle? visit here

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Behold the Dreamers book by Imbolo Mbue against brick wall

a nutshell: seeking a ‘better life’ in NYC for his Cameroonian family while striving for a green card, Jende finds employment as a chauffeur for a Lehman Brothers exec and discovers how bleak the Manhattan lifestyle is below its glittering surface

a line: “American women do not use love potions.”  “That’s what you think? … They call it lingerie.”

an image: Jende contrasts the 2008 financial crisis with the curse that befell Ancient Egypt, which he blames on Egyptians choosing riches over righteousness, worshipping idols and enslaving fellow humans – the Americans did no such thing, he believes

a thought: I’ll try not to say too much, but the ending felt beyond crushing, particularly in its seemingly normalised misogyny

a fact: Mbue lost her own job in the 2008 crash and was inspired to write this novel when observing drivers, who were predominantly black, waiting on Wall Street

 

want to read Behold the Dreamers? visit here

Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions by Valeria Luiselli

Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions by Valeria Luiselli

TW – this review contains references to sexual assault

a nutshell: a short, narrative nonfiction book bearing witness to the suffering of undocumented children navigating the US immigration system, drawing on Luiselli’s work as a volunteer court translator in New York

a line: “It is perhaps not the American Dream they pursue, but rather the more modest aspiration to wake up from the nightmare into which they were born”

an image: the writer describes seeing child migrants enter the court system as like being stood with hands and feet tied, powerless, watching kids try to cross a busy avenue with cars speeding by

a thought: rather than writing off these children as “illegals” or “aliens” we should regard them as refugees of a hemispheric war (in which the US has long been complicit), Luiselli argues, all of whom have the right to asylum

a fact: the writer notes the horrifying reality that 80% of the women and girls who cross Mexico to get to the US border are raped on the journey

 

want to read Tell Me How It Ends? visit here