First Generation: 36 Trailblazing Immigrants and Refugees Who Make America Great by Sandra Neil Wallace & Rich Wallace, illustrated by Agata Nowicka, 94 pp, RL 4

First Generation: 36 Trailblazing 
Immigrants and Refugees 
Who Make America Great 
illustrated by Agata Nowicka
Purchased for my school library with grant funds

First Generation: 36 Trailblazing Immigrants and Refugees Who Make America Great begins with definitions of what it means to be first generation, noting that the mini-biographies in their book are all about people who are the first members of a family to immigrate to a new country and not children who are born in that new country to immigrant parents. Their introduction tells readers that the United States is a nation of diversity, and that the immigrants and refugees featured in this book have, "shaped our country in countless ways, from the development of electricity to the yogurt you might have eaten for breakfast." Many of them faced discrimination "while they created meaningful, impactful lives in the United States," and they were brave, "whether coming to a new country by choice or fleeing here to save their lives. They embody American ideals by working hard, creating change, influencing others, and helping to guide the world." 

Don't start reading First Generation: 36 Trailblazing Immigrants and Refugees Who Make America Great unless you have a lot of time on your hands - you will be fascinated and find yourself Googling (thanks to Sergey Brin,  one of the trailblazers of this book and founder of Google who immigrated from Moscow, where his family was discriminated against for their religion, at the age of six) each and every one fo these trailblazers. These biographies are not just about the contributions the subjects made, but also the often challenging and dangerous countries they came from and the challenges and dangers they faced being immigrants in America. A few well chosen historical figures (Albert Einstein, Khalil Gibran, Mother Jones, John Muir, Nicola Tesla, and Rose Winslow) are joined by scientists, artists, architects, activists, athletes, a perfumer,  a model and journalists.

Stand outs for me include Pauline Park, born a boy in Korea, she became an activist for freedom of gender identity and expression who convinced gay and lesbian advocacy groups to include transgender people under the LGBT title. As a fan of cooking shows, I was very excited to see chef Marcus Samuelsson, born in Ethiopia, adopted by Swedish parents, included here. Another surprise was learning the story of Hamdi Ulukaya, founder of Chobani yogurt, who grew up herding sheep in Turkey with his Kurdish family. Ulukaya's family recipe for yogurt has had a huge impact on what we see on the shelves of our grocery stores today. I especially loved reading about Barbara Young, who immigrated from Barbados after losing her job as a bus driver and negotiator for the transit system. In New York City and employed as a domestic worker, Young connected with other nannies and learned that their rights were being violated. She began studying labor rights and ultimately started the domestic workers civil rights movement that culminated in 2010 with the Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights for New York State.

Each biography includes a fact box that includes highlights from the subjects life and back matter shares the inspiration behind the book, including insight from Nowicka, who immigrated from Warsaw, Poland recently, and her young daughter. There are also tips for readers on how to be a trailblazer, including asking relatives about your heritage, writing letters to refugees, volunteering at organizations that support immigrants and refugees, celebrating Immigrant Heritage Month in June and World Refugee Day on June 20th and, best of all, "Be kind to EVERYONE!"

Diana Al-Hadid

William de Kooning

Cheryl Diaz Meyer

Razia Jan

John Muir

I.M. Pei

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