Something About America

9780763634155_p0_v1_s260x420Something About America
By Maria Testa
Published by Candlewick Press
Ages 12 and up
Hardcover, Paperback

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This isn’t supposed to happen in America.  Inspired by actual events, this story starts ten years after the narrator’s family fled the fires of ethnic hatred in Kosova, Yugoslavia – long enough for the narrator to have transformed herself into a typical American schoolgirl.  Her parents continue to feel like foreigners, and she grows impatient with what she perceives as their refusal to assimilate.  Then an ugly incident in a nearby town changes everything, forcing each member of this refugee family to consider what being an American truly means.

Resources
• Articles (2002-2003) about the Somali community in Maine from the Portland Press Herald (View & Download)
• Materials from the Many & One Rally, a 2003 Lewiston rally in support of Maine’s “new arrivals” (View & Download)
• Study Guide created by Mary Clare O’Grady, Librarian Monroe Middle School (Wheaton, IL) in conjunction with the book being a One Book, One School selection (View & Download)
• Study Guide created by reading specialist Tracie Vaughn Zimmer  (View & Download)
• Community Engagement Guide created for by I’m Your Neighbor for a city-wide read  (View & Download)

Documentary Resource
The documentary, “The Letter: An American Town & the “Somali Invasion” (Arab Films International) covers the same Maine incident that Maria Testa writes about in this novel.

The film clips below open with comments from the hate group / Nazi group , The World Church of the Creator. This group scheduled a rally in Lewiston, Maine for January 11, 2003. They choose Lewiston because of a letter that Lewiston Mayor Raymond sent to the city’s Somali elders the previous October. That letter asked the elders to stop new immigrants from coming to Lewiston. Some found the letter embarrassingly ill-informed while many others found the letter openly racist. The World Church of the Creator thought the letter signaled that Maine would be a good recruiting ground for white supremacists.

Tensions in Lewiston grew in the lead up to January 11th. The city of Lewiston forced by free speech provisions to allow The World Church of the Creator, prepared in the best way they could. Those preparations involved anticipating riots and violence. January 11th would be the biggest police action in Maine’s history.

Churches, social groups and many others came together to hold a counter rally called the Many and One Rally which would be held across town to stand up against bigotry, stand up for peace and celebrate the community’s cultural diversity.

In the end on January 11th only 30 people showed up for the World Church of the Creator rally while across town over 3,000 people showed up to celebrate diversity and justice at the Many and One rally.

View & Download Clip 1 (.mp4)
Lewiston prepares for the The World Church of the Creator rally.

View & Download Clip 2 (.mp4)
Alternating between the two rally sites on January 11, 2003.

View & Download Clip 3 (.mp4)
Aftermath of the rallies and Lewiston’s thoughts about the future.

These clips are used by permission of filmmaker Ziad Hamzeh and Arab Films International and can be used only in association with studying the novel Something About America.

Awards & Accolades
• New York Public Library Best Books for the Teen Age
• International Reading Association Young Adult Choices
• Bank Street College Best Children’s Books of the Year
• Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) Poetry Pick
• Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights Outstanding Book Awards, Honorable Mention
• Boston Authors Club, Julia Ward Howe Award Finalist
• Maine Literary Award
• One School, One Book, Wheaton, IL and South Portland, ME

“Testa writes stories told in poems of surpassing beauty, fragility, and depth . . . Riveting – and tender.”  —Kirkus Reviews

“Maria Testa’s stirring words enhance a sense of the characters’ experiences and emotions, particularly those of a young person caught between cultures.”  —Booklist

“Simplicity of language is a powerful counterpoint to the emotional complexity of the immigrants’ story, and classrooms of mixed reading abilities and/or second-language learners may find this an ideal vehicle.”  —The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books