Welcome to the New World by Jake Halpern and Michael Sloan is the coolest journalism piece I have ever seen in my life. When I first began reading, it reminded me of George Takei’s ’They Called Us Enemy’ in its raw storytelling using majority black and white illustrations.
This nonfiction graphic novel follows the story of a refugee family who fled the civil war in Syria to make a new life in the United States. This family, unfortunately, arrived the day Donald Trump becomes president and the US growth in racism and islamophobia.
The beauty of this novel is not just the moment in time the story took place, but how it was told through the perspective of different family members. Children being excited about their new life where they can have their own rooms and live that teenager life they see in popular media. The parents, on the other hand, are anxious for a chance for a better life but guilty for leaving part of the family behind.
This story really sang to me because I too am an immigrant to the USA. Similar to children in the book, I didn’t have much choice, but it changed my life. One particular element that I enjoyed and made me remember my childhood is the language barrier one faces when moving to the United States. Obviously, the children in the novel picked up English quickly (much like I did), but the struggle of the parents learning English reminded me of my parents. Even to this day, my parents sometimes face challenges due to language barriers which Halpern and Sloan were able to articulate in the panels so smoothly without making fun of the language barrier.
Halpern and Sloan showed the perspective that the family that the immigrant left behind creates this image of ‘Oh, you live in the USA? You must be rich.’ Those scenes hit home, and it a struggle every migrant has to face. The Aldabaan’s soon found themselves not only figuring how to keep themselves financially afloat but having to also worry about sending money back to their families in Jordan because they were now ‘rich Americans’.
This graphic is raw and intimate. It handles the immigrant experience so tastefully without sugarcoating the struggles and joys a family goes through. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to further understand the immigrant experience.
An eArc copy of this graphic novel was given to me by Henry Holt & Co in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Publisher: Metropolitan Books
Publication Date: 22 September 2020
RRP: $30.40 AUD
Personal Rating: 4.5/5