Reviews

01/14/18

The Newcomers by Helen Thorpe

THE NEWCOMERS
Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom
By Helen Thorpe
396 pp. Scribner. $28.

Steve Bannon, we hear you. Too many white middle-class Americans, victimized by globalization, are struggling. Resources are scarce enough for people who were born right here.

Build the Wall! Build the Wall!

But maybe Americans are not as flinty a race as we appear to be when we're chanting at rallies. While President Trump was campaigning on the wall, Helen Thorpe spent a year inside a "newcomer class" for teenage refugees from Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Central America.

Her resulting book, "The Newcomers," is a delicate and heartbreaking mystery story, as Thorpe slowly uncovers the secret catastrophes in the lives of young immigrants at South High School in Denver. They arrive mute, and they gradually gain the words and confidence to describe the journeys that led to the classroom.

Thorpe's parents emigrated from Ireland in 1965, when Thorpe was a year old, and she has written about young Mexican immigrants in America. A discerning chronicler of cultural misunderstanding, she started the book just as nativist resentment became a political movement.

Read the rest at the New York Times here.

Leave a comment