Swimming to America

Overview

The quandary of the illegal immigrant

Linda Berati, an eighth grader in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, knows that her parents are Albanian and her little sister American. But what is she? And how did she get to New York? Her parents evade her questions, fueling Linda's uneasiness about her identity. Only Ramón, a Cuban immigrant her age, seems to understand. Together, they escape to the hideout she and Ramón built. Then a strange, foreign man appears at...

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Overview

The quandary of the illegal immigrant

Linda Berati, an eighth grader in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, knows that her parents are Albanian and her little sister American. But what is she? And how did she get to New York? Her parents evade her questions, fueling Linda's uneasiness about her identity. Only Ramón, a Cuban immigrant her age, seems to understand. Together, they escape to the hideout she and Ramón built. Then a strange, foreign man appears at the hideout, and right away Linda feels connected to him. She soon discovers that Ramón's wayward brother knows the man, and learns that immigrants - even illegal ones - come to the United States for many reasons. She determines to confront her mother and find out the truth about herself at last.

The author, known for her empathic portrayals of children, shows what it's like to live the American dream in dread of losing it.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Like many who come to America for freedom the Berati family keeps a low profile so as not to jeopardize their status. Linda, an eighth grader in Brooklyn, has been warned many times by her mother not to speak of the past. The young teenager has many questions that go unanswered by her evasive mother—why did her mother flee Albania and how did she get the angry scar that runs down the side of her face. Linda is haunted by reoccurring nightmares in which she feels she is suffocating and drowning and is rebuffed by her mother when she tries to decipher their meaning. At the beginning of the new school year, Linda finds herself at odds with her old friends whose new interests seem to be clothes and boys. She soon becomes friends with Ramon, a young Cuban immigrant and together the two share a hideout under the Verrazano Bridge. When Linda discovers a stranger living there, she at first befriends the hapless young man. Later she suspects he is an illegal alien and a friend of Ramon's brother Miguel and that the two are dealing drugs. A class assignment on family history is the impetus Linda needs to confront her mother about her past, stand up to Miguel and the gang who is after him, and face the truth about her own journey to America. Meade writes convincingly and empathetically about those who will sacrifice all for a chance to live the American dream. Her characters are fully realized and the dialog realistic. The several subplots are neatly woven together into a cohesive whole. Mom's turnabout seems abrupt but Meade is such a capable storyteller it is a barely discernable flaw. 2005, Farrar Straus and Giroux, Ages 12 to 14.
—Beverley Fahey
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-With characteristic sensitivity and optimism, Mead presents the struggles of Linda Berati, who seeks to uncover a past that her parents refuse to share. A family-history project at her Brooklyn school emboldens her to confront her hardworking, domineering mother with a demand for answers: why did she flee Albania; how was her face scarred; and why does Linda have recurring nightmares of drowning and suffocation? In addition, her compatibility with her old friends wanes as Donna and Crissy focus on boys, clothes, and social conformity. Linda identifies more with eighth-grade classmate Ramon, a Cuban refugee. After a stranger arrives on the scene, Linda discovers a criminal connection between him and Ramon's older brother, Miguel. Anxious to help her friend with his family crisis, Linda contacts the police and, at last, shares her worries with her parents. With newfound trust and respect, they finally embrace her desire to enroll in the advanced educational program at a nearby academy. Linda and Ramon's immigrant families share a determination to survive, to fit in, and to avoid conflict with authorities that might jeopardize their future in America. Through the two main characters, this struggle is personalized and enriched with universal adolescent issues of independence, responsibility, and self-confidence. Realistic dialogue, an engaging plot, and Linda's roller-coaster emotions effectively counter the unlikely protracted reluctance of the girl's parents to share their past and Linda's surprisingly fearless berating of Miguel and his drug-dealing companions. Nonetheless, readers will find this title an informative, empathetic, contemporary portrait of the immigrant experience.-Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A class project is the catalyst for 13-year-old Linda Berati to learn about her illegal immigrant family's soul-crushing past in Albania, their difficult and dangerous journey to America, and how her mother got the long facial scar she has always refused to discuss. Recently, Linda has been moody, difficult, mean to her little sister, and furious at her impossible-to-please mother. Nothing seems to fit her correctly, not the less-than-challenging academic program at her dull school, her clunky new clothing, nor her once comfortable friendships with Donna and Crissy. As Linda seeks to learn the secret of her mother's and thus her own history, she gets involved in another more familiar immigrant story. Her impoverished friend Ram-n has an older brother who is not only selling drugs, but also cheating another dealer, a situation that puts his hard-working family in serious jeopardy. Readers will be rooting for this plucky heroine as she struggles along to the "ultimate destiny of power and stubbornness-adulthood." (Fiction. 10-13)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374380472
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 3/15/2005
  • Pages: 160
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Alice Mead is most recently the author of Year of No Rain, a story about the Sudan crisis, which was selected as an NCSSCBC Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies, and Madame Squidley and Beanie, about a family beleaguered by chronic illness. She lives in Maine.

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