Islandborn

This book helps kids think about the people in their lives and how their stories shape them. Lola doesn’t remember her birthplace so she interviews her community members to remember it through their eyes. This story highlights birthplace but there are many ways we can connect with our family through oral storytelling which helps us gain a greater sense of ourselves and the people we love.

Also, we often hear the narrative that immigrants come to this country, “to have a better life.” Although this may be true, there are a lot of assumptions that children may associate with that narrative. This story shows that other places have beauty and vibrant communities and that there may be many reasons why a family chooses (or is forced) to leave the home they love.


-Dena

Social Justice Activities:

  1. Abuela describes the beach like, “your favorite poem.” Work on poetry that describes your favorite places.

  2. Like our main character, Lola, interview family/community and draw any places you feel you are from. Students are welcome to draw Lacey if this assignment feels too challenging.

  3. Discussion Questions:

  • What is something special about your neighborhood/community?

  • Class assignment page: Where are the pyramids? Where do you think Dalia is from? (highlight that there are pyramids in many places in the world)

  • Colorful page: What do you think people like about living here? (Community, music, food, colors, flowers, people…)

  • Barber page: Why might people leave the Island? What might be the ‘other things’?

  • Dreadful Monster: Discuss what the dreadful monster might be a metaphor for (a president who is corrupt, a group of people who gain control of the government, colonizers)

  • Mr. Mir: Do you think Mr. Mir misses the Island? (he has a picture of the island in his workshop and describes it as a beautiful place).

Relevant Social Justice Standards:

Identity 3: Students will recognize that people’s multiple identities interact and create unique and complex individuals

Identity 4: Students will express pride, confidence and healthy self-esteem without denying the value and dignity of other people.

Identity 5: Students will recognize traits of the dominant culture, their home culture and other cultures and understand how they negotiate their own identity in multiple spaces.

Diversity 6: Students will express comfort with people who are both similar to and different from them and engage respectfully with all people.

Reading Strategies:

Themes: There are so many themes to explore in this text- Belonging, Diversity, Oral Storytelling, Afro-Latino identity, Afro-Caribbean/Afro-Dominican culture, immigrant experience, family/community, self-knowledge/ancestry, appreciating diverse experiences

Imagery: Analyze what the the Dreadful monster could be a metaphor for. Then review the author's explanation:

Is the monster specifically Rafael Trujillo, the 20th-century dictator in the Dominican Republic, where you're from?

No, I didn't think of a specific person. I thought of it as a stand-in for political monstrosity, as a counterpoint to the very unsatisfying nonsense that immigrant and refugee children are sometimes fed: which is that we come to places like Canada, we come to places like the United States because we lack x, y and z in our country. A slightly more accurate story is that many of us who find ourselves in places like the United States and Canada come because there are political monstrosities at home.


Note: Newer editions of the book have the spider as green but earlier editions were black. The author intentionally changed it, recognizing that all too often children’s literature associates bad things with blackness.

Book Details:
  • Fiction, All Ages
  • Perspectives: Afro-Latino. Caribbean, Dominican, Island Born
  • Author's stated heritage: Dominican Republic
  • Subject Integration: Art, Music, Storytelling, Social Emotional Learning

Questions for families to discuss:

  1. What does it mean to belong?

  2. Do you know anyone from another country? Do they talk about what they remember most?

  3. What is your favorite thing about a place you've visited?

  4. How does a person connect to oral traditions and ancestors? Who are special people in your life who help you learn?

  5. How do places in our lives influence who we are?


Book covers images are from publishers and in the public domain