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Staff Book Recommendations: Young-chan Han

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November is National Literacy Month! To celebrate, we asked our staff to recommend their favorite equity books. Here’s what they said…

By Young-chan Han
Senior Family Engagement Specialist, MAEC

I have worked closely with immigrants for my entire adult life, so my interest in books is also about immigrants. There are two books in particular that I would like to share. One is titled Innovative Voices in Education: Engaging Diverse Communities by Eileen Kugler and the other is Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhhà Lai.

Innovative Voices in Education, published in 2012, is a compilation of chapters written by 17 different authors, including teachers, education leaders, community activists, and two immigrant students. I contributed a chapter, titled “From Survivors to Leaders: Stages of Immigrant Parent Involvement in Schools.” In this chapter, I share my experiences working with immigrant families and describe four stages of immigrant parent involvement in schools: from cultural survivor to cultural learner to cultural connector and cultural leader.

I want to highlight the chapter written by the immigrant students, titled “A Foot in Two Worlds: Immigrant Students in U.S. Schools.” These young authors share about the culture divide between immigrant parents and their children at home and school. Parents want to keep their country’s traditions; children want to fit into American culture. Often the two collide. One of the students writes, “I did feel like I was caught in between two worlds and trapped in two identities.” I can relate to that too.

The second book I want to share with you is Inside Out and Back Again, published in 2011. My daughter introduced me to the book in 2017, after she read it with a community group in Loudon County, Virginia. The author, Thanhhà Lai, is a refugee from Vietnam who escaped the fall of Saigon in 1975 and eventually settled in the US with her family. This book is composed of a series of poems inspired by authors’ childhood experiences in Vietnam and her first few months in the US in Alabama. As an Asian American immigrant myself, I relate to many of her experiences. The author brought two outfits with her when she came to the U.S.; I had one suitcase with me. She writes about a bucket of chicken, skin crisp and golden, that her mom could not eat, just like I could not eat pizza for years. The smell of cheese made me sick! (I eat pizza now.) I love and treasure this book because it reminds me that every immigrant, every refugee, child and family that comes into our schools brings unique and powerful experiences.

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The MAEC blog is designed to engage hearts and minds of school and district leaders across the country to engage in issues that you have identified as being essential in education. Opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization.

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