By Christy of Maricopa County Library District

It’s no secret that middle school can be difficult. It is a time of huge changes and trying to figure out who you are and how you fit in. These difficulties can be compounded when trying to navigate two different worlds. “Red, White, and Whole” by Rajani LaRocca tells the story of 13-year-old Reha, an only child of Indian immigrants, growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, in the 1980s. Told in first-person free verse with compassion and sensitivity, this coming of age historical fiction title poignantly tackles the difficult themes of immigration, acculturation, and grief. If you are looking for something similar, here are a couple of my favorites!


“Other Words for Home” 

by Jasmine Warga

Although written about a different situation, this story resonates with the same energy as “Red, White, and Whole.” Beginning in Syria and told around the Arab Spring, the relatable protagonist, Jude, tells her own story of immigration and grief. Using a first-person free verse style, the author relates experiences of war and displacement. After moving to America, Jude must confront the reality of being an Arab Muslim living in the United States.



This realistic fiction book uses free verse to explore the immigrant experience through thoughtful characters.


“Inside Out & Back Again

by Thanhha Lai

The war in Vietnam is the backdrop of this story. Expressed in free verse, it tells the story of 10-year-old Ha. In 1975, the fall of Saigon sent waves of refugees fleeing Vietnam. With the help of a family friend and an American sponsor, Ha and her family eventually reach the United States and settle in Alabama. Leaving behind her friends, home, and culture, Ha must navigate a new world, one where she thinks the food has no flavor and where she believes that “Whoever invented English / should be bitten / by a snake.”



This story is a first-person narrative told in free verse. It explores the immigrant experience in an amusing, hopeful, and moving way.