Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Reading the World: 7. Australia

from The Arrival, by Shaun Tan
Immigration has become a topic of great interest to me--and feels very much like a life-long interest. Immigration, tied in with culture and family, comprise the bones of the story.

Tan writes about his experience developing The Arrival on his website, "I was reminded that migration is a fundamental part of human history, both in the distant and recent past.

In Tan's story, a father from an unnamed land travels to another unnamed land. He leaves his wife and daughter behind as he attempts to earn enough money to send for them to join him.

We encounter giants, shadows of monsters, strange fruit and vegetables, indecipherable language, astonishing vehicles, foreign customs, and a feeling of being a complete and total outsider.

The fact that there are no words in this book did not bother me in the least. The progression of images connected me closer to the main character, the immigrant father. I learned with him. I felt confused and uncertain. I lived his struggle to find food and a semblance of a steady income.

Actually, I can't imagine this book being "written" any other way.

from The Arrival, by Shaun Tan
And I suppose the feeling I encountered as a reader, is the backbone of my experience. I felt more than I saw or digested as traditional text. The uncertainty which each page brought was welcomed.

The main character not only succeeds because of his grit and perseverance, but also because of the kindness of strangers. He encounters people with their "silent" stories to share. These people sympathize with his circumstance and help him make it.

I am looking forward to placing this book in my classroom library and asking students what they think this story is about--I really can't wait to hear some of their take-aways from The Arrival.

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