“You, who are so-called illegal aliens, must know that no human being is illegal. That is a contradiction in terms. Human beings can be beautiful or more beautiful, they can be fat or skinny, they can be right or wrong, but illegal? How can a human being be illegal?” Elie Wiesel, Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor
So starts this graphic novel geared toward tween/teen readers (I would suggest ages 10 and over). As a lawyer formerly working in immigration defense, and in light of the current crisis and unspeakable human rights violations currently happening at the borders of the United States of America, I decided that my children, ages 10 and 12, needed to read this book. I wanted them to understand better what I used to do professionally (although we have discussed it); who the people are, why they flee their homes, and what they go through, to find safety in this (and other) countries. In the words of my 12 year old “this book was intense.” Mission accomplished.
Now, I am no fan of graphic novels. This book though, is different. Although the pictures are still comic book like, it is exactly those pictures that help tell the story – that show the emotion, the fear, the danger – that words alone cannot accomplish. This is the story of a young boy, Ebo, who is traveling from Ghana in hopes of finding his older brother and sister (family reunification), and in hopes of a better life in Italy (there is no future for him in his village). The characters are fictional. The story is fiction. But the situations depicted are very real. The journey Ebo takes has him in dangerous cities, crossing the Sahara Desert, and then at sea on an overcrowded inflatable dinghy full of people hoping to make the 300 mile journey to safety.
This book brought out raw emotions for me as I thought of my former clients and all those who continue to seek asylum and family reunification at our borders. It explains the plight of the immigrant/refugee, the risks people will take for better opportunities, the dangers and tragedies that befall those leaving their homelands, the people who abuse and take advantage of them, the agencies trying to help, and the resilience of the human spirit. This book should be required reading for kids in school, and for those adults who want to better understand the humanitarian crisis at our own border.