The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom (Hardcover)
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“A delicate and heartbreaking mystery story...Thorpe’s book is a reminder that in an era of nativism, some Americans are still breaking down walls and nurturing newcomers, the seeds of the great American experiment.” —The New York Times Book Review
“The teens we meet have endured things none of us can imagine…and [this book has] never been more crucial than at this moment.” —USA TODAY
“Helen Thorpe has taken policy and turned it into literature.” —Malcolm Gladwell
From the award-winning, “meticulously observant” author of Soldier Girls and Just Like Us comes a powerful and moving account of how refugee teenagers at a public high school learn English and become Americans, in the care of a compassionate teacher.
The Newcomers follows the lives of twenty-two immigrant teenagers throughout the course of the 2015-2016 school year as they land at South High School in Denver, Colorado. These newcomers, from fourteen to nineteen years old, come from nations convulsed by drought or famine or war. Many come directly from refugee camps, after experiencing dire forms of cataclysm. Some arrive alone, having left or lost every other member of their original family.
At the center of their story is Mr. Williams, their dedicated and endlessly resourceful teacher of English Language Acquisition. If Mr. Williams does his job right, the newcomers will leave his class at the end of the school year with basic English skills and new confidence, their foundation for becoming Americans and finding a place in their new home. Ultimately, “The Newcomers reads more like an anthropologist’s notebook than a work of reportage: Helen Thorpe not only observes, she chips in her two cents and participates. Like her, we’re moved and agitated by this story of refugee teenagers…Donald Trump’s gross slander of refugees and immigrants is countered on every page by the evidence of these students’ lives and characters” (Los Angeles Review of Books).
With the US at a political crossroads around questions of immigration, multiculturalism, and America’s role on the global stage, Thorpe presents a fresh and nuanced perspective. The Newcomers is “not only an intimate look at lives immigrant teens live, but it is a primer on the art and science of new language acquisition and a portrait of ongoing and emerging global horrors and the human fallout that arrives on our shores” (USA TODAY).
“A delicate and heartbreaking mystery story...Thorpe’s book is a reminder that in an era of nativism, some Americans are still breaking down walls and nurturing newcomers, the seeds of the great American experiment.”
“Extraordinary. . . . The Newcomers puts a human face on the refugee question. The book is a journalistic triumph. Thorpe . . . pens a masterful book that lets readers see the humanity instead of the facts and figures and politics of the immigration debate.”
“This book is not only an intimate look at lives immigrant teens live, but it is a primer on the art and science of new language acquisition and a portrait of ongoing and emerging global horrors and the human fallout that arrives on our shores… The teens we meet have endured things none of us can imagine…But we learn a great deal, and that’s never been more crucial than at this moment.”
“Thorpe’s fascinating chronicle of a year in an English-acquisition class at a Denver high school provides a timely and much-needed perspective on the global refugee crisis.”
“Thorpe provides a layered portrait of the students and explains the daunting refugee crisis in America and elsewhere . . . . [and] puts an agonizing human face on a vast global problem.”
“An extensive, riveting account that presents the manifold challenges of the refugee crisis through the microcosm of one classroom.”
“Few books could be more vital, in this particular moment or in any moment, than this book. Helen Thorpe writes expansively about one school, one classroom, one teacher, one group of students—students who hail from the most severe places in the world and come together at South High. Confused, troubled, bright, magnificent: they converge, ostensibly to learn English, learning so much more than a language—learning about us and about themselves, all the bad and all the good. You need to meet these young people. Once you do, everything you read or hear or say will be illuminated and changed.”
“Helen Thorpe didn’t miss a detail during the year she spent watching twenty-two young refugees begin to learn how to speak English (difficult) and how to be American (even more difficult). No one with a pulse could fail to be moved by this beautifully reported book.”
“In this time of great anxiety, this splendid, humane, beautifully crafted book is a reminder of America’s proud, historic role as a beacon of hope to the world. And it is a terrific story.”
“I loved this book. It brims with teenage life, with a sense of America being reborn, of new Americans being made. Cultures converge in a high school classroom where teenagers—with all the energy, earnestness, and embarrassment we expect, but also with trauma—learn English with the help of a teacher who appreciates all the ways it’s not easy. The Newcomers teaches us about parts of the world we can barely imagine and also takes us into their new American homes. Helen Thorpe, herself the child of immigrants, is a terrific writer and a steadfast character witness to these people so many of us fear.”