Growing Up in a New Country: Books for Newcomer Teens

April 11, 2013 | Melanie

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Being a teenager is hard enough. But being a teenager and moving to another country? Well, that's a whole other challenge altogether! Here are some great books for helping the teenager in your life cope with the ups and downs of being an adolescent, on top of being the new kid in town.


Piece by PieceEvery teen is worried about fitting in. But being a newcomer teen can make fitting in even more of a challenge. Piece by Piece: Stories About Fitting into Canada is an anthology of newcomer stories with contributions from some of Canada's most notable authors - many of whom were born in another country. From their first Canadian culture shock to their first memory of feeling "Canadian," this collection of stories will appeal to teens and newcomers alike





First Crossing
First Crossing: Stories About Teen Immigrants is another anthology about the adolescent newcomer experience. The anthology includes contributions by authors from Mexican, Venezuelan, Kazakh, Chinese, Romanian, Palestinian, Swedish, Korean, Haitian, and Cambodian backgrounds, with stories that touch on the challenges of prejudice, language barriers and homesickness.






Step from Heaven A Step from Heaven tells the story of Young Ju, who at age four, is forced to leave her Korean home and loving Halmoni (grandmother) to move with her parents to Mi Gook (America). In America, Young Ju's parents struggle with several low-paying jobs and are handicapped by their language barrier. Struggling with alcoholism and domestic violence, Young Ju's father crosses a frightening line in his cruelty, forcing Young Ju to make a decision that will set her mother, younger brother and herself on the path to another new life in America.



Learning to FlyIn Learning to Fly, Jason, a recent immigrant from China, makes some bad decisions as he comes to terms with small-town racism while trying to fit in. He wants to leave his small town in Canada and return to China, where he and his mother lived until four years ago. His white high-school teachers do not know how smart he is, and his classmates jeer at him. Driven to join the crowd of potheads, he bonds especially with his Native American classmate, Charles. Desperate after the police catch him buying drugs for his friends, Jason thinks of suicide, but he finds help in surprising places. The clipped dialogue perfectly echoes the contemporary scene, the harsh prejudice felt by both the new immigrant and the Native American, and their gripping story of friendship .



Inside OutTold through a series of poems, Inside Out & Back Again is the story of Hà, a young girl who in 1975 is forced to leave Vietnam with her mother and brothers and resettle in Alabama where she finds refuge but also cruel rejection, especially from mean classmates. Based on the author's personal experience, this first novel captures a child-refugee's struggle with rare honesty. Readers will be moved by Hà's sorrow as they recognize the anguish of being the outcast who spends lunchtime hiding in the bathroom.




Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow Kiffe, Kiffe Tomorrow is the story of Doria and her life in the Paradise projects of Paris. Doria's father, the Beard, has headed back to their hometown in Morocco, leaving her and her mom to fend for themselves. As Doria struggles through school, puberty, and boys, she learns to that it is possible to dream of a life beyond the projects.





Reel CanadaMovies are a great way to capture an adolescent's attention. Reel Canada: Integrating Skills Through Canadian Film is an intermediate ESL text for adult and young adult learners that uses Canadian films as a starting point for learning English. Each chapter builds upon the content of a film from the National Film Board of Canada, while examining new vocabulary, grammar structures, and themes. Reel Canada is the first book in the Culture Link series.




O CanadaIf there's one thing teens love, it's music. O Canada: Integrated Skills Through Canadian Music is a great ESL resource for teens that will introduce them to the Canadian music scene, while learning English at the same time.   The book uses Canadian songs and songwriters as a starting point for learning English. Each chapter builds upon the content of its focus song, examining new vocabulary, grammar structures, and themes. O Canada is the second book in the Culture Link series.




 What was your favourite book when you were growing up? Share your stories with us!


Need some more suggestions? Check out these websites:

Canadian Children's Book Centre's List of Canadian Immigration Books for Kids and Teens

Parent's Choice: Children's Media & Toy Reviews - Immigration Novels for Teens

Nerdy Book Club - Ten Young Adult Books that Reflect the US Immigration Experience

Mitali Perkins' Official Author Website - Excellent Books for Teens Between Cultures