When it comes to reviewing and rating an anthology, I always find myself at a fork-road. Especially stories like those in Come On In. I’m not the biggest fan of anthologies, to be honest, there are only a selected few I’ve enjoyed. When I started Come On In, I didn’t really know what to expect – I had only a vague idea about what the book was about and that was it. But reading this book – my heart is full of hope and love. Truly.
Come On In, edited by Adi Alsaid, is a collection of 15 stories (fiction but very honest and raw and definitely Own Voices) about immigration and finding home. And rightly so, all the stories bring out the essence of this tagline. Before I go deeper into my supposed review, I must warn you all – I absolutely LOVED this book and these stories and they all are simply amazing!
The 15 stories featured are from some of our beloved as well as up-and-coming diaspora authors and all of these were stories about immigration in different forms. Reading these really made me stop a little and ponder upon the ways that people perceive outsiders, the ways that microaggression seeps into the daily lifestyles, the way that racist thoughts are so prevalent even though others dismiss them as being joke – it just makes you wonder at the stereotypical and limited knowledge of people sometimes. These stories also explored so many varied emotions that come about with immigration – that of grief, of the confusion, of not fitting in, the anger and sometimes, also the hope. All in all, it strives to show us readers the experience of living in a completely different country and the ways that people cope and sometimes even lose.
All the Colors of Goodbye by Nafiza Azad told the story of a family moving, a young girl leaving her brother behind. It comes with the heartfelt emotions of saying goodbye, of wondering how you could leave all your life behind. This story was so beautifully written, the emotions so vivid and raw. The Wedding by Sara Farizan was another lovely story, mostly focused on the beautiful relationship between a grandfather and granddaughter, and family over all. It is also a story of acceptance and love amongst ourselves. Where I’m From by Misa Suguira really made me stop and ponder, to be honest. It tells the story of a Japanese girl recently moved to college and how the one question she gets asked is where she is from. This story was very profound, as we get to see everything from this young girl’s perspective and how she perceives her culture far away from home.
Salvation and the Sea by Lilliam Rivera was such a stunning tale of friendship and wanting freedom. Featuring Guatemala and Puerto Rican characters, this story was about two friends simply wanting to be themselves without any fear. It really showed the hardship of being Latinx in the US, and the conflicting position of the police. It was really a very important story. The Curandera and The Alchemist by Maria E. Andreu was another such story that spoke about being Latinx in the US, and how scared the main character was because of not having the proper immigrant papers.
While the next story, Volveindome by Alaya Dawn Johnson, didn’t make that much of an impact for me, I still enjoyed reading it and learning something new. Another story that didn’t quite make the cut for me was When I Was White by Justine Larbalestier. I simply couldn’t feel the characters, to be very honest, and it felt too haphazard. About a young Irish girl who travels from Australia to Harlem with a man she loved. It explored the life of a white women in a black community, which started out really well with an interesting dynamic, but somehow, I really just disliked the characters.
From Golden State by Isabel Quintero and Fleeing, Leaving. Moving by Adi Alsaid were two stories that were full of hope and longing, and equally wonderful. They weren’t as memorable as the others, I must point, but I enjoyed reading them nonetheless.
The next story called The Trip by Sona Charaipotra, featuring Indian characters, was one of my favorites. It honestly made me so nervous for our main character Sarika, and was at the edge of my seat when she gets held back by the airport authority just because of her birth place – Kashmir. The psychological impact that she has because of this is so intense and Charaipotra portrayed this immensely well through her story. Another story about Indian immigration was First Words by Varsha Bajaj, who brings out the ‘American Dream’ that most of us have, in her story. The process of adapting to a new life and new everything is so hard, and we see that here in the ways how Priya, the MC, loses the will to speak and engage because she is so frightened to say something wrong. Those were such honest renditions of true emotions. I don’t have an experience with immigration, per se, but as an Indian, these two stories really spoke to me a lot. I could feel and understand both Priya and Sarika’s emotions and their dilemma, and I commend the authors for writing about them.
A Bigger Tent by Maureene Goo was another lovely story, featuring Korean characters and a story about families and flaws. It was so realistic the way that the main character’s emotions were portrayed, as well as her changing relations with her family. It was fun and resinous at the same time, and I absolutely adored the happy ending. Hard To Say by Sharon Morse is another story that explores familial relationships in a foreign country. Our MC here feels a little detached from her Spanish family, especially her grandparents, because she had moved to the US very young. We see how these relationships change and how she learns to communicate through art, and its beautiful!
The next beautiful story that really excited me so much was Confessions of an Eucadorkian by Zoraida Cordoba. I loved the writing style of this story and how it was told in the form of a diary entry. It was about friendships, about realizing yourself and about speaking up. It is told in a very humorous light that makes the reading experience even more enjoyable. Family Everything by Yamile Saied Mendez was another stunning story about leaving home and the dilemma the comes along with it. There are so many thoughts when one is moving – it feels as if they are leaving behind their lives and running off. This story was exquisite in that portrayal – family and hardships and a love that cannot be broken by borders. I have loved Saied’s writing style before, and the way that she is so passionate about family in her stories, and the same was with this too. It was beautiful and so full of hope and love.
All of these fifteen stories touched me heart in one way or the other, and made me see the world from different perspectives. These stories are about hope in a new world, about courage when being different, about confusion in a new land, about yearning and craving and wanting to fit in. It is about so much and I feel this book, although fiction, is such an important collection. It is a great step in seeing the world through different lenses and understanding. With diverse voices and a plethora of experiences, Come On In is a brilliant anthology that needs to be read and analysed. I loved this collection so much and would wholeheartedly recommend.
I was provided an early e-copy of this book as part of the blog tour hosted by Hear Our Voices. All views and opinions are mine. Thanks to the publishers and Hear Our Voices tour for giving me the opportunity to read this marvelous book!
Come On In | edited by Adi Alsaid
This exceptional and powerful anthology explores the joys, heartbreaks and triumphs of immigration, with stories by bestselling and beloved YA authors who are themselves immigrants and the children of immigrants.
From some of the most exciting bestselling and up-and-coming YA authors writing today…journey from Ecuador to New York City and Argentina to Utah, from Australia to Harlem and India to New Jersey, from Fiji, America, Mexico and more… Come On In.
With characters who face random traffic stops, TSA detention, customs anxiety, and the daunting and inspiring journey to new lands, who camp with their extended families, dance at weddings, keep diaries, teach ESL, give up their rooms for displaced family, decide their own answer to the question “where are you from?” and so much more, Come On In illuminates fifteen of the myriad facets of the immigrant experience.