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Tell Us We're Home / by Marina Budhos

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Title: Tell Us We're Home
Author: Marina Budhos

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 978-1416903529
Year: 2010

Concepts: Immigration, class, scarcity, care work, jobs, recession, unemployment.

Review: Eighth graders Jaya, Maria, and Lola lived in Meadowbrook, one of New Jersey’s best school districts, yet they felt unhappy and invisible. Their mothers worked as housekeepers and babysitters for some of the town’s elite households, which meant that the girls attended school with these same wealthy children.  As the girls learned, this was a place where maids could lose their livelihoods at the petty whims of their employers, where white high school boys provoked fights with Mexican boys, and where insecure rich kids built themselves up by putting down those who did not belong.

Each girl wrestled with a problem that seemed to spiral out of control.  Jaya’s mom lost her main housekeeping job after her employer’s nephew accused her of stealing some valuable jewelry, and once word spread she had trouble finding new work.  Maria straddled two worlds: one involving the growing attention of a do-gooder white boy and the other linking her with the needs of her extended Mexican family. Lola felt increasing rage with the inability of her unhealthy parents to provide adequate care, and with her own inability to translate hard work into leadership and success. Their troubles almost tore their friendship apart until they learned how much they needed each other to stand up for what mattered most.

This novel expertly weaves together a number of threads related to life as working-class immigrants in a prosperous and predominantly white town.  Added to the mix are the challenges that come with economic downturn when jobs become scarcer and the most vulnerable are the first ones let go.  Well-developed characters and a compelling narrative will capture the attention of middle grade and young adult readers and encourage them to think outside of the box.  

Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

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