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The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Samira Ahmed's Internment is a chilling and timely novel set in a near-future America. Muslim Americans are now on a "registry," Exclusion Laws have been enacted, and the president has just declared, "Muslims are a threat to America." For 17-year-old Layla Amin, it's unthinkable that her neighbors would find her family a threat. But the unthinkable happens when men from the Exclusion Authority arrive at their home and announce they're being relocated. The Amins are sent, along with thousands of other Muslims, to an interment camp surrounded by watchtowers, electric fences, and armed guards. As a sense of hopelessness begins to overwhelm many of the internees, Layla and a group of friends decide to fight back and form a resistance movement within the camp. Violence and the threat of violence are a constant in the story. People are beaten and disappear from the camp, a man is electrocuted and another shot and killed. There's some profanity ("f--k," "a--hole," "bulls--t"). This controversial storyline is sure to spark serious discussion and debate between readers who find its premise all too possible and those who believe it could never happen in America.
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What's the story?
One thing 17-year-old Layla Amin never thought she'd face in life was INTERNMENT by the American government simply because she and her family are Muslim. She lives with her professor father and chiropractor mother in what had always been a liberal college town in California. Her parents aren't particularly religious and her boyfriend, David, is Jewish. How could anyone possibly think they're potential terrorists? But two and a half years ago, a new president was elected, and what followed was a rapid unraveling of democracy -- 18 months since America enacted a Muslim ban, one year since questions on a census landed Muslims on a registry, nine months since the first book burning, and one month since the president declared that "Muslims are a threat to America." When the Exclusion Authority arrives to "relocate" the family, there's no outcry from the neighbors they once considered friends. The family joins thousands of other Muslims at Camp Mobius in the high desert of California, where they have ID numbers stamped on the inside of their wrists. The camp director and guards make no effort to hide their racism and Islamophobia and think nothing of using violence to keep the internees in check. But Layla and a group of friends decide to fight back. With the help of an unexpected ally inside the camp, she's able to contact David and begin to send a series of blog posts to the outside world.
Is it any good?
This must-read novel poses a powerful question to readers -- could American democracy be endangered or possibly even destroyed by a culture of fear, racism, and hate? The storyline of Internment has numerous references and comparisons (some subtle and some with explanations) to the deportation of Jews during the Holocaust and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, which some readers may not immediately understand. But this offers an excellent opportunity for teens and parents to talk about why minorities are so often targeted (even in democracies) and what lessons can be learned from these past tragedies.
An Author’s Note at the end begins, “When fascism comes to America, it will come draped in the flag.” The note gives background on the Japanese American interment and also discusses the current internment camps for people crossing the border and how Latinx characters are portrayed on TV.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how families' forced relocation to camps in Internment. Do you think there's any reason the American government should be allowed to detain or arrest American citizens simply because of their religion or ethnicity?
When Layla and her family are forced to leave their home, they're allowed just 10 minutes and one bag. What would you do in that situation? What would you pack and what would you leave behind?
What part do you think the media has played in making Americans fearful of certain religious or ethnic groups? How could the media help bring Americans together?
- Author: Samira Ahmed
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Activism, Book Characters, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: March 19, 2019
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 13 - 18
- Number of pages: 400
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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