I’m Your Neighbor is a website offering children’s immigration stories and books. It is not a site about global or even American politics. But immigration is a deeply political issue in America and across the globe.
Is I’m Your Neighbor about to get political? I don’t know. You might need to tell me.
This is what I do know. Stories and books exist to explain things to us, to help us to stop being afraid of things, and to help us feel something for someone we have never met. Stories and books are part of our global culture because they build knowledge, confidence, and empathy. The world cannot exist without knowledge, confidence, and empathy.
This is the other thing I know. No matter in what year or from what country your ancestors or your best friend’s ancestors immigrated, their arrival was an uncertain thing. They were different. They were, for a time, a burden. It is no different today. A new immigrant’s arrival is an uncertain thing, a confrontation with difference, and for a time, a burden.
In January 2017, the American President equated the uncertainty, the difference, and the burden of immigration with terrorism. America has moved to build a wall to block out undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Central America. The American President blocked legal immigration from Somalia, the Sudan, Libya, Iraq, Iran, and Yemen. He called for a “temporary” moratorium on Muslim immigration. He has drawn a correlation between people of select countries and of Muslim faith to terrorists. The president has depicted immigration as an open door to people who want to commit violence against America.
This is why the American government needs stories and, yes, children’s books. Because they have not heard the whole narrative.
Clearly they have not heard that people who leave their countries do so out of the deepest commitment to family. They leave everything—culture, extended family, community, friends, work, achievement, home, possessions—to protect those who are most dear to them from war, famine, persecution, and the lack of a viable future. Reading two picture books will make Americans feel that fact in their hearts and in their minds.
The picture books The Journey (Flying Eye Books) and Two White Rabbits (Groundwood Books) show the deep love of immigrant parents for their children. Books show us that immigration is an act of love and sacrifice, not an act of premeditated terrorism.
Books also show us that immigrants do not take from America, but give to America. Immigrants give us their intelligence, dedication, productivity, and friendship, and they also give us a broader sense of the world. What more does a nation, a neighborhood, or two strangers meeting need than that?
The picture books I’m New Here (Charlesbridge) and Here I Am (Capstone) depict new immigrant kids and how quickly the awkwardness of their arrival and assimilation becomes a celebration of friendships and new experiences for all of us.
I beg you to borrow, buy, share, and read these four books and see what the stories have to teach you.
I might just beg you to flood local, state, and city government with them.
We need the whole story.
We need books.
If you choose to send these books to someone who can influence immigration policy, here is some possible text to include:
You might be surprised to be receiving children’s books. I am sending you books because I think they tell truths about immigration that we all have a hard time accessing from personal experience or from the rhetoric in the news.
Children’s book are not just for juveniles, they are core stories about what we each stand for and what out country stands for.
The Journey and Two White Rabbits show that people who leave their countries do so out of the deepest commitment for family. The parents in these books leave behind extended family, community, friends, work, achievement, home, possessions—to protect their children. Would you make that sacrifice for your children? Any of us would.
I’m New Here and Here I Am show how immigrants do not take from America, but give to America. Immigrants and refugees give us their intelligence, dedication, productivity, and friendship, and they also give us a broader sense of the world. What more does a nation, a neighborhood, or two strangers meeting need than that?
I urge you to read these books.
I urge you to experience what the characters sacrificed and why.
I urge you to support open immigration policy whenever and however you can.