Want something good to read?
Check out Green Card Youth Voices, a local book featuring stories of thirty immigrant students from Wellstone High School in Minneapolis.
This is not a heavy compendium about the plight of immigrants. This is teenagers telling their stories.
Like kids anywhere, they mention friends, part-time jobs, school, sports and what they think is weird. Weird seems to be a favorite word. But to these kids, weird isn’t a kid who wears awkward clothes. Weird is the gulf between the world they left and the world they live in now.
Weird is living with a mother you haven’t seen in years. Many of these young people didn’t get the chance to grow up with their parents. One parent, often the mom, left home, looking for work and a better life for the families.
“I also felt weird living with my mom because she was like someone I had just met. I knew she was my mom, but I had not lived with her for a very long time.” Eduardo Lopez, Mexico
“I felt weird in a new home with people I hadn’t lived with for a long time. I know it’s my mom, but I … I felt weird.” Alexandra Irrazabal, Ecuador.
These young men and women remember how weird and confusing America was when they first arrived. So many things flummoxed them. How do you change planes in a country when you’ve never flown before and don’t speak the language? How do you ride the bus? Tall buildings, elevators, computers, and school lockers, even men with tattoos—all were confounding. Winter, well, no surprise, that was a shock to newcomers from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Central and South America. Yonis Ahmed from Ethiopia remembers, “The first time I saw snow, I thought it was salt.” Ahmed Ahmed, from Somalia, wondered if snow was sugar.
These young people have adapted. They’ve learned English, learned to open their lockers, ride the bus, drive cars, get part-time jobs, send money to relatives in their home countries. They’ve done so much while they are still in high school. Resiliency is a language they all know.
They know loss, too. They miss their countries, their cousins, their brothers and sisters and grandmas. Especially the grandmas. One young man, Wendy Saint-Felix, from Haiti, says, “Sometimes I just go alone in my bedroom and think about my grandmother because I miss her a lot.” He dreams of joining the NAVY ROTC and later, bringing his grandmother here.
These teenagers’ stories brim with hopes and dreams, along with some tears and fears. It’s a good read. Nothing weird about it.
Thanks to Green Card Voices, the Minneapolis nonprofit which has produced hundreds of digital stories, as well as this book and photo exhibit, all of which help Minnesotans meet our neighbors. Watch this Green Card Youth video