May 24, 2012

The immigrant divide

Tell Us We're Home
by Marina Budhos

Eighth-graders Jaya, Maria, and Lola are best friends in wealthy Meadowbrook, New Jersey. They want the same things the other kids want - to wear nice clothes, have a popular boyfriend, attend the spring dance. But there's one big thing that sets them apart: their mothers are maids and nannies. And they work for families whose kids go to the same school. 

Budhos introduces the girls individually, revealing the stresses in each girl's immigrant family, as they wrestle with financial difficulties. The tension is gradually heightened as the girls and their families repeatedly face painful situations which serve to reinforce their feelings of exclusion. For Jaya, it's her mother losing her job when she's falsely accused of theft. For Maria, it's wanting to date a rich white boy, having a mother whose English skills are poor, and a cousin who clashes with the high school kids. For Lola, whose father is unable to find a job, it's enduring the insults from Rachel Meisner and her snobby friends.

As their problems escalate, it drives a wedge between the girls, breaking their close friendship. Suddenly, they're each left alone to struggle in a world that doesn't notice they exist. In this painful and heart-breaking novel, Jaya, Maria, and Lola try to find a way to call America their home.

An important and enlightening book.

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