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- September 9
- Event Category:
- Author Events
presenting Refugee High: Coming of Age in America
Harvard Book Store’s virtual event series welcomes award-winning writer ELLY FISHMAN for a discussion of her book Refugee High: Coming of Age in America.
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While payment is not required, we are suggesting a $5 contribution to support this author series, our staff, and the future of Harvard Book Store—a locally owned, independently run Cambridge institution. In addition, by purchasing a copy of Refugee High on harvard.com, you support indie bookselling and the writing community during this difficult time.
About Refugee High
For a century, Chicago’s Roger C. Sullivan High School has been a home to immigrant and refugee students. In 2017, during the worst global refugee crisis in history, its immigrant population numbered close to three hundred—or nearly half the school—and many were refugees new to the country. These young people came from thirty-five different countries, speaking among themselves more than thirty-eight different languages.
For these refugee teens, life in Chicago is hardly easy. They have experienced the world at its worst and carry the trauma of the horrific violence they fled. In America, they face poverty, racism, and xenophobia, but they are still teenagers—flirting, dreaming, and working as they navigate their new life in America.
Refugee High is a riveting chronicle of the 2017–8 school year at Sullivan High, a time when anti-immigrant rhetoric was at its height in the White House. Even as we follow teachers and administrators grappling with the everyday challenges facing many urban schools, we witness the complicated circumstances and unique education needs of refugee and immigrant children: Alejandro may be deported just days before he is scheduled to graduate; Shahina narrowly escapes an arranged marriage; and Belenge encounters gang turf wars he doesn’t understand.
Equal parts heartbreaking and inspiring, Refugee High raises vital questions about the priorities and values of a public school and offers an eye-opening and captivating window into the present-day American immigration and education systems.
Praise for Refugee High
“Beautifully written, deeply reported, and bursting with humanity, Refugee High is a book you will read in a hurry and remember forever.” —Jonathan Eig, author of Ali: A Life and Luckiest Man
“Elly Fishman’s Refugee High takes readers inside one of the most remarkable schools in the country. Fishman brings to life the individual experiences of the school’s teenagers, teachers and administrators, their struggles and joys. Through these intimate accounts, Refugee Highshows the widening conflicts—of a city, a nation and world—that concern us all.” —Ben Austen, author of High-Risers: Cabrini-Green and the Fate of American Public Housing
“As the only refugee in an Oklahoma high school in the 1990s, I used to have fantasies like this: what if a school existed that represented the wider world, everyone displaced, everyone applying for the same papers, pockets of society not defined by ill-fitting American markers, but following the precise contours of my own continent, its many faiths and colors? Refugee High is the realization of that daydream, and a riveting real-life answer to those youthful mysteries. A deep dive into an experiment I’ve always wanted to witness, meticulously researched, lovingly written, and rich in revelation.” —Dina Nayeri, the author of The Ungrateful Refugee and Refuge
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