A guest book review by Kauai:
Lessons to Learn From Home of the Brave
COVID has brought many Americans nearly a year of experiences confined to home, and in many instances, home kept one going amid the chaos of 2020. But there is a lot to be taken for granted when home becomes too familiar a place. For countless immigrants and refugees, the situation is switched. Crossing borders can be synonymous with the loss of one’s home, and Katherine Applegate’s Home of the Brave is a good reminder of all there is to appreciate in having a home, whether constituted by family, friends, or a roof over one’s head. It is about the journey a young African boy takes in moving to America.
Often, the United States is portrayed in the media and popular culture as the pinnacle of living in comfort. Its expanses of never-ending food in grocery stores, security measures in place for protection, and the freedom of an American appeal to many outside its borders. For many crossing borders, especially refugees, the destination provides one with a voice and freedoms amid the chaos of one’s past. In this story, the freedom of the United States is mentioned a lot, yet the struggles of leaving home for a seemingly new world where even the most basic communication is lost in translation are also part of the journey. Home of the Brave is effective at enhancing one’s perspective of the difficulties of crossing borders and reminding one of the gift of home.
The life of Kek, a twelve year old Sudanese boy, is changed forever when he becomes a refugee. Adapting to the winter weather of Minnesota, attempting to speak and understand English, and trying to fit into a new world prove to be difficult. Even the most basic appliances are new to him. Most of all, Kek must learn to find a home with his aunt and cousin. Kek finds friends, family, and stability while learning to deal with discrimination, survivor’s guilt, and new surroundings.
This book is written in simple free verse, making it an easy read. However, the first-person perspective of a young child’s immigration story is imperative in expanding one’s understanding of the extent to which a home or lack thereof affects one’s life and how suffering is sometimes necessary to grow. And while fictional, the perspective does not lack sincerity in the uncertainty an innocent boy faces in a new place. Home of the Brave remains an important text in understanding the impacts of immigration as well as recognition of privilege for what many Americans have.