Title: Welcome to the New World
Author: Jake Halpern, Michael Sloan (illustrator)
Genre: Graphic Novel, Nonfiction
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Release Date: September 8, 2020
Now in a full-length book, the New York Times Pulitzer Prize–winning graphic story of a refugee family who fled the civil war in Syria to make a new life in America
After escaping a Syrian prison, Ibrahim Aldabaan and his family fled the country to seek protection in America. Among the few refugees to receive visas, they finally landed in JFK airport on November 8, 2016, Election Day. The family had reached a safe harbor, but woke up to the world of Donald Trump and a Muslim ban that would sever them from the grandmother, brothers, sisters, and cousins stranded in exile in Jordan.
Welcome to the New World tells the Aldabaans’ story. Resettled in Connecticut with little English, few friends, and even less money, the family of seven strive to create something like home. As a blur of language classes, job-training programs, and the fearsome first days of high school (with hijab) give way to normalcy, the Aldabaans are lulled into a sense of security. A white van cruising slowly past the house prompts some unease, which erupts into full terror when the family receives a death threat and is forced to flee and start all over yet again. The America in which the Aldabaans must make their way is by turns kind and ignorant, generous and cruel, uplifting and heartbreaking.
Delivered with warmth and intimacy, Jake Halpern and Michael Sloan’s Welcome to the New World is a wholly original view of the immigrant experience, revealing not only the trials and successes of one family but showing the spirit of a town and a country, for good and bad.
In November of 2016, the Aldabaan family moved to the United States from Syria as refugees. They didn’t speak English and had to leave many family members in Syria. The family had to adjust to life in America, including finding jobs, navigating the school system, and seeking protection in their new home, despite death threats and an oppressive political system.
This was an incredible graphic novel. It is based on a real family who moved to the U.S. as refugees from Syria. Though many of my childhood friends immigrated or were from families who immigrated from other countries, I wasn’t familiar with this process. I can’t imagine what it would be like to feel so unsafe in your home that you have to move to a new country that you’ve never been to. I recognize that I have this privilege, and this book opened my eyes to the Syrian refugee experience.
Some parts of this story were devastating. The Aldabaan family left a dangerous situation in their home country, but they didn’t arrive to a safe situation in America. The children faced bullies at school. The parents struggled to find work that would support their family of seven. They were constantly worried about the way immigrants were treated by the new government. They even received a terrifying death threat at one point, for no other reason than being refugees. These were some very upsetting events that I’m so sorry they had to go through.
This is an incredibly powerful and informative graphic novel! I highly recommend it.
Thank you Henry Holt and Co for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
What to read next:
Homes: A Refugee Story by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah with Winnie Yeung
Have you read Welcome to the New World? What did you think of it?