Yoonmee's Reviews > Home of the Brave

Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate
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May 05, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: children-s-books, fiction, 2010-nene-nominees
Read in May, 2010

I have some reservations about the book. For starters, I think I should start a tag called something like, "Books about refugees and/or people of color from war torn countries written by white women" because for some reason lately I have been coming across more and more books that would fall under this genre (The Breadwinner author, I'm looking at you).

While I found the book compelling, my big complaint about it is that the reader doesn't learn Kek is from Sudan until maybe about halfway through the book. I found an interview with Applegate addressing this where she responds with, "Although I did very specific research, it seemed to me that many aspects of the refugee experience are universal. The loss and fear, the struggle to belong, the hopes for the future: that’s all part of the process, no matter where you’re from." (http://www.sandhyanankani.com/wordpre...)

While it's a nice sentiment to believe feelings of loss, fear, the struggle to belong, etc. are universal, I find it somewhat offensive she refers to Kek's homeland simply as Africa for much of the book. Because, hey, it's all Africa! Who cares which country or which tribe Kek is from? It's all Africa! It's all exotic and different! And can't we all relate to feelings of loss, the struggle to belong, and hopes for the future... as a refugee brand new to America, as someone who saw his parents murdered? Can't we all relate to that? Hey, we're all in this together! Let's all hold hands now and sing kumbaya.

Admittedly, that was pretty harsh, but I wanted to get my point across. Yes, the book is incredibly moving and many, many people are going to love it, but it seems to be more about what we Americans want the refugee experience to be like, rather than what it actually is.

I would have also preferred the author to have included more contextual background as to what happened in Sudan that caused Kek to come to America
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Nina Do you, as an American, know what you "want the refugee experience to be like?" What is that?!?? Do you know what their experiences actually are?!??
As a teacher with many students from different countries in Africa (and by the way 99% of them refer to themselves as African), I can tell you that this is very much an accurate representation of the trials of a refugee. The book is more about building empathy for these newcomers, rather than a detailed description of their lives before they became a refugee.


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