Islandborn by Junot Diaz

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How do we keep our family history alive? In this insightful and poignant book, Junot Diaz examines just how we keep our stories alive.  In an age when immigration is a debate in our nation and tops the headlines each day, we consider the story of Lola, who immigrated as a baby. She cannot remember “The Island” that she came from, since she left when she was a baby.

To bridge the past with the present, Lola’s family brings the “The Island” to her, by sharing all kinds of memories – from the wonderful to the heartbreaking.  It is a story of sharing, imagination and the importance of our stories.

Throughout this story, Lola starts to understand the truth of her abuela’s words: “Just because you don’t remember a place doesn’t mean it’s not in you.”

Note: This book is also available in Spanish under the title “Lola”.

Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Explore/Think V.A.3 Engaging in inquiry-based processes for personal growth.

How much do we really know about our family history? How far back in history can we imagine? How is the story of your family history conveyed over time?

  • Invite learners to begin an inquiry process with their own family members to understand the story of their own family.
  • Suggest that learners  interview members of their family and friends they have known over time to unfold deeper understandings.
  • Provide learners with books and technology to research a country of origin to investigate how their family story connects with information from that culture, geographical region and societal norms.
  • Invite learners to share this information with one another or to another family member to continue their own story.
  • Learners can consider how their history might shape their future.  Ask the question, “How can your history influence your future?” and “How will you continue to share your story?”
  • Invite learners to explore how we can begin to understand “our own story” when we may not have family to share with us. What steps might they take?

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