AUTHOR: JUNOT DIAZ
ILLUSTRATOR: LEO ESPINOSA
PUBLISHER: DIAL BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS
AGE RECOMMENDED: 5+
This story follows the life of Lola, a young girl who embarks on a journey to discover her roots with the help of her family and friends. Although the exact location is not mentioned, it is clear that the story is based on the history of the Dominican Republic.
The book starts by introducing Lola’s school, which she attends with students from all over the world. As an infant, Lola was brought to the United States, so she had no memories of the land of her birth ie the island. When her teacher asked the class to draw a picture of their first country, Lola asked her family and friends about their experiences in the region and what stood out the most to them.
Their accounts painted a picture of life on the island and the circumstances that led to her family leaving the beautiful place. As Lola delves deeper into her family’s past, she realizes the truth behind her grandmother’s statement: “Just because you don’t remember a place, doesn’t mean it’s not in you.”
This book is full of so much love. The writing is beautifully crafted with children in mind. How hot is the island? It’s “as hot as five bullies ganging up on you.” How shy is Lola in class? She was “so timid she almost dreaded Nelson’s voice.”
Out of all the books regarding immigration, Islandborn stands out as the only one that conveys in an age-suitable manner why individuals are compelled to abandon their homeland. Upon hearing all the delightful tales about the island, Lola inquires why they came to the USA. To which the caretaker articulates that a monster had descended on their unfortunate island, able to diminish an entire village with a single utterance and make a whole family vanish with just one glance. I believe it was a political disturbance that caused the islanders to be compelled to abandon their homes.