With all of the static across our country and in Washington about immigration, refugees, and the place of “newcomers” in our society, there is no more relevant nor more timely book right now than this. Thorpe spent a year at South High School in Denver in a class designated for “newcomers” – children who have arrived in the United States as refugees, usually from conflict or war zones, often having had serious lapses in schooling, and with virtually no resources. Her year-long immersion in the lives of the students, their families, and the teachers and school administrators produced a rich chronicle of how children work to adapt to a new place, culture, and system. As with her two previous books about people in transition, Thorpe tells this story with insight, compassion, and urgency. A must read as the immigration debate rages on in our country.
Amy Goldstein, a longtime Washington Post reporter, takes a deep dive into the community of Janesville, Wisconsin, describing in gripping and revealing detail what happens when economic disaster strikes a town. In the case of Janesville, it was the closing in late 2008 of what had been the oldest operating General Motors plant in the country. While Janesville: An American Story (Simon & Schuster, $27) is set in a single community, it also explores the larger realities of how Americans are trying to cope with job losses and financial hardships. It examines the shortfalls of re-training programs, the limitations of social services, and the political divisions and partisan rancor that can pull even the most established communities apart. These damaging effects aren’t always simple to trace or explain. But the power and disturbing impact of Goldstein’s book comes in its refusal to be satisfied with simplifications
Despite increasingly militarized borders, wealthy nations can’t keep out the real enemy: climate change. While Europe and the U.S. build more walls, design more sophisticated surveillance systems, and add more armed guards to protect national security, their focus on keeping out migrants misses the fact that what needs resolving is the high level of green-house gases that are making many parts of the world impossible to live in. Miller’s eye-opening humanitarian report takes us through the “dry corridor” of Central America, the post-typhoon Philippines, and the American Southwest, documenting the plight of today’s growing numbers of climate refugees. Calling the environment “the new human rights battleground,” Miller shows that we urgently need a legal framework for people displaced by droughts and floods, not more rigorous policing. Best of all would be diverting resources from borders to develop alternatives to the unsustainable consumer society that fueled climate change in the first place.