Why No Goodbye?

Leapfrog Pr. Nov. 2019. 180p. pap. $13. ISBN 9781948585064.
Gr 10 Up–This poignant, timely, and slim novel-in-verse with mature themes and visceral suffering recounts the story of Jabair, a teenage Rohingya middle child in Myanmar. He is left behind, first by his father, who he is told is dead, and then by his mother and three younger siblings. He is angry, channeling it through questioning and cursing his mother in letters (with some footnotes that simply read: “Burmese profanity”) written during literacy classes with Ha Jia, who works with the internally displaced in Myanmar. Replying to a letter from his mother about his tearful little sister Amana who misses him, he pleads: “Do not tell me this./It opens up my sorrow/and makes it bigger./I do not need/sorrow to slice/through my skin.” Organized into three parts, the book is ripe for interpretation with a psychological lens. Jabair feels the acute loss of his father when “burning feelings” surface for Zahura, a mysterious girl his age who appears one day foraging in the forest. Her own trauma causes her to be fearful and flee from him, which further complicates his feelings for women who, he feels, abandon him. Big-hearted, curious teens will empathize with Jabair and the plight of the Rohingya.
VERDICT Recommended to all libraries serving immigrant populations and looking for voices unheard, stories underreported, and redemption against all odds. Pair with “Lament for Syria” by Amineh Abou Kerech.

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