Sunday, 9 October 2016

Something in Between

Jasmine de los Santos has worked hard to get where she is, done everything her Filipino family wanted of her. She’s on track for valedictorian, aiming to win cheerleading regionals and just she’s been made a National Scholar. She’s going to meet the president and receive funding for the education that’s so important to her. Yet her parents aren’t overjoyed by the news, was this not what they wanted for her? They have a secret that threatens to destroy all her dreams; they are not in America legally.

When Jasmine finds out she’s an undocumented immigrant (she refuses prefers that term to illegal) she starts to doubt her entire identity. She has always thought she was American, despite not being born there. She doesn’t even speak the languages of the Philippines.

We hear a lot of stories about immigration, usually painting the picture of criminals sneaking into countries without permission. Jasmine’s family entered the USA legally, they had work permits and they started a new life. They own their own home and raised their children to be good citizens. But when their uncle closed his business, their work permits expired too, leaving them no choice but to try and stay under the radar. Jasmine’s academic success changes all that.

A law can somehow define who you are or how you see yourself. It's like I'm somehow less of a person because I'm not in America legally.

To top it all off, Jasmine’s met a boy. Her first boyfriend since she’s spent her life being a good girl, putting studying before her personal life. It turns out Royce is the son of a congressman who is fighting against a bill that would give her family a chance of staying. Can she trust Royce with her secret or is he just like his father?

Despite her immigration status, Jasmine is still in a privileged position, a world away from what most undocumented immigrants experience. She is an outstanding student and captain of a top cheerleading team, not to mention she is lucky enough to gain friends in high places. She’s not unaware of this.

Jasmine’s story has a lot in common with Melissa’s own experiences. Rather than writing an immigration story from the perspective of the average case, she’s written what she knows about, which goes a long way to explaining the reliance on people with connections. Unfortunately that is not something available to many.

I don't know how to take her comment. I don't need to have my Filipino-ness pointed out to me. Maybe she's as uncomfortable as I am that I'm the same race as their help?

It is hard to read Something in Between and not be outraged by the injustice of Jasmine’s situation. She is exactly the kind of person a country should want to have making contributions to society. Not to mention the unfairness of punishing children who are at zero fault. Jasmine also has younger brothers who have only known America. I do find it ironic that a country that was founded by immigrants is so intolerant now.

Whilst this story is set in America, immigration is obviously a big topic in the UK at the moment. It’s important to remember that immigrants are people, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, human beings with emotions, hopes and fears. Fiction can help us remember that, humanise them rather than demonising them.

Something in Between is published by HQ Young Adult (the new name for MIRA Ink) and is out now in paperback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

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