Welcoming Afghans as Americans—With Books

Two Sandals

No reader that has met Lina and Feroza on the pages of the picture book Four Feet, Two Sandals doubts that Afghan refugees should be resettled in America.

Since 2007, students have been reading about how each girl finds a single sandal in a clothing distribution drop. Flip-flopping around the camp in just one bright yellow sandal, it is inevitable that the girls will meet. What is not inevitable is how they decide to share the sandals and thus their lives, secrets, and sorrows.

The reader is left with an eagerness to meet these two girls on the other side of their journey—in a classroom in America.

What other Afghan / Afghan American children’s books should be put into readers’ hands to build a culture of welcoming and belonging for newly arrived Afghans?

Life Under the Taliban

The Breadwinner and the sequels Parvana’s Journey and Mud City are classics. This trio of novels for ages 11 and older boldly profiles a girl’s life under the last Taliban regime. We recommend the recent graphic novel that features art from the stunning animated film.

Fleeing the Taliban

N.H. Senzai tells a story based on her husband’s own flight from Afghanistan. The award-winning novel Shooting Kabul follows Fadi whose family is torn apart when his little sister Mariam is left behind in their escape from Taliban-controlled Kabul. While Fadi’s family settles in America, their arrival coincides with 9/11 and the national backlash against Muslim citizens.

The reader can be assured that Fadi is reunited with Mariam as Mariam stars in the follow-up novel Saving Kabul Corner. The story follows a group of friends caught between cultures, each fighting to save what makes them Afghan—and American.

Afghans Becoming Americans

A Galaxy of Sea Stars, named a Bank Street’s Best Children’s Books of the Year, features Afghan resettlement in America from the POV of a long-term American family. In the novel, Izzy’s father invites his Afghan interpreter and friend to move with his family into the apartment in Izzy’s home. Izzy is afraid the daughter Sitara will disrupt the balance of her friend group and remind her father of his recent deployment. Sitara and her family do disrupt and remind, but in a way that makes both families heal and thrive.

Thanks to a brilliantly generous donation by the book’s publisher Farrar Straus Giroux, I’m Your Neighbor Books will be giving away 100 copies of this novel to elementary and middle schools that are welcoming new Afghan students, are lucky enough to have a Afghan American community, or simply want to build a more welcoming community—one book at a time.

Enter Your School to Win

False Narratives About Afghans

The false narratives about Afghan refugees have already begun. Afghans who kept Americans safe for the last 20 years are facing questions from pundits about their right to be in America and utterly unfounded accusations of terrorism.

These are the false narratives that allow hate and discrimination to spark.

I’m Your Neighbor Books puts new narratives into the hands of American educators, librarians, parents, readers, and citizens.

Reading books set in our New Arrival and New American communities reduces prejudice by allowing us to meet neighbors on the page. Hate does not thrive when a reader’s empathy is engaged.

Farrar Straus Giroux’s donation of 50 books will bring new narratives to 50 schools. I’m Your Neighbor Books has dipped into emergency funds and purchased books for 50 more schools.

Can you help us serve these 100 schools and—perhaps—more?

All funds raised will go directly to books, shipping, and the development of a welcoming discussion guide for A Galaxy of Sea Stars.

Support the Welcoming of Afghans

Support Afghan Welcoming

Afghan refugees need so much right now. Here are ways you can help with their immediate and long-term needs.

Thank you for your book-filled, empathy-rich engagement with the world.

2 Responses to “Welcoming Afghans as Americans—With Books”

  1. Maria Camacho

    This book would be great in our library. Our students would enjoy reading it and learning g how to be kind and empathetic to others..