Too Far From Home

Nao­mi Shmuel, Avi Katz (illus.)

  • Review
By – September 14, 2020

Born to an Amer­i­can father and an Ethiopi­an moth­er, eleven-year-old Meskerem loves her life in Katzrin, Israel. How­ev­er, her moth­er gets a new job in the city of Her­zliya requir­ing the fam­i­ly to relo­cate, and Meskerem is reluc­tant to go; she’ll espe­cial­ly miss her beloved grand­moth­er. At her new school, Meskerem is sur­prised and sad­dened to face prej­u­dice and racism. Despite the fact that she is Israeli, Meskerem’s class­mates assume she recent­ly arrived in Israel from Ethiopia via Oper­a­tion Solomon where thou­sands of Ethiopi­an Jews were trans­port­ed to Israel. Shocked by the racial epi­thets and dis­re­spect she expe­ri­ences, Meskerem feels ashamed of her her­itage; she even tells her class­mates that she is from Amer­i­ca and that her name is Macy. Meskerem is fur­ther frus­trat­ed when she over­hears that her mom is also fac­ing racism and prej­u­dice at her new job.

Meskerem looks for­ward to her upcom­ing birth­day gift — a trip to vis­it her grand­moth­er in Katzrin. When Meskerem’s dad is injured in a car acci­dent and their planned trip to vis­it Katzrin gets can­celled, Meskerem sneaks on a train to vis­it her grand­moth­er any­way. When she arrives, her grand­moth­er relays sto­ries of their family’s per­se­ver­ance, and encour­ages her grand­daugh­ter to be strong and embrace her her­itage. When she returns to Her­zliya, Meskerem feels invig­o­rat­ed. With the help of her par­ents, she learns to be proud of her lin­eage, both Ethiopi­an and Amer­i­can, and faces her class­mates as her true self.

The book’s focus on immi­gra­tion and fam­i­ly will be rel­e­vant to many read­ers and enlight­en­ing to oth­ers. Meskerem’s expe­ri­ences and their his­tor­i­cal con­text are impor­tant for read­ers of all back­grounds. This wor­thy sto­ry, which approach­es race, big­otry, and mul­ti­cul­tur­al Jew­ish her­itage, is high­ly recommended.

Jil­lian Bietz stud­ied library tech­nol­o­gy and research skills and cur­rent­ly works in the library sys­tem. She is a book review­er for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and Kirkus Review Indie. Jil­lian lives in South­ern California.

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