Published by Scholastic Inc. Setting: Australia
on August 28, 2018
Genres: Young Adult
A remarkable story about the power of tolerance from one of the most important voices in contemporary Muslim literature, critically acclaimed author Randa Abdel-Fattah.
Michael likes to hang out with his friends and play with the latest graphic design software. His parents drag him to rallies held by their anti-immigrant group, which rails against the tide of refugees flooding the country. And it all makes sense to Michael.Until Mina, a beautiful girl from the other side of the protest lines, shows up at his school, and turns out to be funny, smart -- and a Muslim refugee from Afghanistan. Suddenly, his parents' politics seem much more complicated.Mina has had a long and dangerous journey fleeing her besieged home in Afghanistan, and now faces a frigid reception at her new prep school, where she is on scholarship. As tensions rise, lines are drawn. Michael has to decide where he stands. Mina has to protect herself and her family. Both have to choose what they want their world to look like.
I started out 2022 with a great book. I chose this book from a list of Australian books on Goodreads that I was looking at to choose stories for my South of the Equator challenge. I was immediately drawn to the story of two teens on opposite sides of an immigration argument.
Mina has been living in Australia for a few years when she gets a scholarship to a prestigious prep school. In order to make it easier for her to attend, her mother and stepfather decide to move across Sidney. They leave behind their restaurant in western Sidney where many new immigrants live. They are going to start a new restaurant in an area that is predominately white. The pressure is on Mina to do well because her whole family changed their lives (again) for her.
Michael’s family started a group to protest immigrants coming to Australia by boat. They consider it jumping the queue and coming in illegally. He has never questioned what his parents have told him. They aren’t racist. They just want everyone to follow the rules. Not everyone who comes to Australia is really persecuted. Some are just economic refugees. Australia has too much unemployment to take in so many people. When Michael meets Mina and she challenges the beliefs of his family and peers, he doesn’t know how to react.
Mina is disturbed by the privilege that surrounds her at her new school. Everyone thinks it is normal life.
“I’m starting to realize that being born into this social world is a little like being born into clean air. You take it in as soon as you breathe, and pretty soon you don’t even realize that while you can walk around with clear lungs, other people are wearing oxygen masks just to survive.”
Michael is starting to see that not everything is black and white.
“I’ve never done gray before, but I suspect it’s one of the things that, tried once, you can never go back.”
When extremists from Michael’s parents’ group start to target Mina’s parents’ restaurant, he needs to decide where he wants to make a stand.