Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Land of Permanent Goodbyes

35082445Abawi, Atia. A Land of Permanent Goodbyes
January 23rd 2018 by Philomel Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Tareq  lives a happy life with his mother, father, grandmother, and five siblings in Syria. Things are increasingly difficult, and when his apartment building is bombed, only he and his sister, Susan, survive. Their father Fayed was not there, so relocates with the children with relatives, including Tareq's slightly older cousin, Musa. When the Daesh crack down,  Fayed is on therun once again, this time with Musa. Eventually, the group makes it legally into Turkey. Fayed and Susan stay in the border town, but Tareq and Musa head to Istanbul to see what their chances are there. There are many refugees, and things are difficult. There are bright spots, like a cafe run by other Syrian immigrants, but Tareq and his family believe firmly that in order to have a better life, they need to head to Europe. Tareq eventually is reunited with his father and sister, although Musa wants to remain in Turkey, and the family try to find smugglers to take them by boat to Greece. They don't have enough money, so Fayed sends his children ahead of him. The crossing is very difficult. We switch perspectives to Alexia, a US college student who has remained on the island of Lesvos to help refugees who are coming ashore. She helps Tareq and Susan, as well as the Afgan girl whom Tareq is trying to protect, who has been separated from her sister. Even though the children are now safe, there is still a lot of work to be done to get them settled and reunited with their father.
Strengths: Along with Gratz's Refugee and Senzai's Escape from Aleppo, this is a much needed look at the crisis in Syria. The details of daily life before the bombing, as well as the details of survival afterwards, make this a riveting account. Because each experience is so different, it is helpful to have different accounts so that students understand that there isn't ONE Syrian refugee experience. The inclusion of the viewpoint of the volunteers also adds some depth.
Weaknesses: At the beginning, this is narrated by Destiny, which was confusing and overly poetic. The shifts in perspective are a bit rocky. This is not a book for younger readers, as there is mention of rape, graphic beheadings, and other information that might be upsetting to readers below high school age.
What I really think:  I think I will pass on this for now, and stick with the other two titles, but  may consider purchase if the 8th grade teachers proceed with a refugee unit.                                               
Ms. Yingling

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