I got home last week from the ALA conference, an experience that still makes me daydream, especially when I think of the energy and passion in the room at the Pura Belpré awards. You can find my speech and Yuyi Morales’s speech here, but the truth is that the text doesn’t replicate the emotion that was in the room. All of us receiving recognition were teary and humbled –and not just by the honor being extended to our books. A good part of our emotion stemmed from the unspoken presence of people who were not actually in the room with us.
This summer, our news outlets have exploded with accounts of the nearly 40,000 unaccompanied childrenwho have arrived on our border to find themselves not only exhausted, afraid and alone, but also the target of explosive rage. Whatever your view on immigration policy, I hope you can agree that what we’re seeing is a human tragedy on the backs of the weakest and smallest among us.
All of us writers on that stage work for young people because we respect them and treasure what should be a sacred time for all children. All of us on that stage have been touched by migration, either directly or indirectly, in our own families. All of us have been the recipients of our parents’ most ardent hopes for our futures, sometimes at the expense of their own. It is heartbreaking, then, for us to see children so completely lost and in need of help.
As Javier and I traveled back home, the TV monitors overhead in the airport flashed with images of sign-wielding protestors and supporters, with images of children handing over their birth certificates or chugging water from empty milk jugs, with shots of them sleeping on the floors like inmates.
The difficult story of migration is the Latino story, and it is the human story since time began. It can’t be captured in two-minute news clips and it can’t be screamed and shouted down.
Here for you, then, in honor of these children, I offer a short summer reading list to add to your thinking on this issue. It’s by no means a complete bibliography of what’s out there, but it’s a start…