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World in Between: Based on a True Refugee Story Hardcover – July 27, 2021
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Kenan loves drawing and playing soccer with his friends. He wants to be a famous athlete, hates it when his classmates trash his buck teeth by calling him “Bugs Bunny,” and fights with his big brother, who’s too busy and cool for him lately. Sometimes his parents drive him crazy, but he feels loved and protected—until the war ruins everything.
Soon, Kenan’s family is trapped in their home with little food or water, surrounded by enemies. Ten months later, with help from friends and strangers, they finally make it out of the country alive. But that’s only the beginning of their journey.
An action-packed page-turner with heart about a kid doing his best during difficult times, World in Between celebrates the power of community and resilience, hope and kindness.
From the Publisher
My own ‘Coming to America’ By Kenan Trebincevic
Kenan Trebincevic, at age 12, during his first day of school in America.
I loved both of Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America movies. I was so relieved that President Joe Biden and vice president Kamala Harris U.S. refused to reinstate the inhumane travel ban that detained refugees from Muslim countries. I have my own coming to America memories of when my own war-torn family landed there. Twelve years old, I was terrified.
Caught in the 1993 ethnic-cleansing campaign in the Balkans that slaughtered 100,000 Muslims like us, we’d barely escaped Bosnia by bus to Vienna. Unable to stay permanently, the Connecticut Interfaith Council offered to sponsor us. I hadn’t heard of Connecticut.
At the gate before our plane took off, a woman from the International Organization of Migration gave us blue-and-white tote bags. In the mirror, I looked pale.
With a bad overbite and pants too small for me, I stuck out as a poor foreigner. I’d never flown before and imagined the steel tube filled with lounge chairs was a huge space ship.
When I showed Mom the card explaining the inflating raft in case of a water landing, she said, “They think the plane will come down. We’ll fall in the ocean!”
“Just regular procedure,” Dad explained, holding her hand. My brother, Eldin, held her other hand.
The stewardess handed me a pasta lunch. I told her, “I can’t pay.”
“It’s free, honey.” She laughed.
In our homeland, Dad was a sports coach who owned a gym. Mom was a clothing company manager. With the war, our bank accounts vanished overnight. My beloved karate coach came to our home with an AK-47, yelling “You have one hour to leave or be killed.” We packed one bag each and fled.
I couldn’t sleep, haunted by images of our fellow countrymen, who had suddenly turned nationalistic like the government, deciding they hated and wanted to kill us because of our religion. My teacher holding a gun to my head. My best friends beating me up. Meat trucks driving massacred bodies of my people down our street. Eldin and my dad taken to a concentration camp. For two weeks, we didn’t know whether they were alive.
As we landed at Kennedy Airport at 6:20 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 20, 1993, men in navy blazers swarmed around us. My back tensed. With their badges and serious faces, I feared they were soldiers rounding us up for jail or death, like the militia back home.
“They’re just airport security,” Eldin explained.
International Refugee Committee workers, who recognized us from our blue-and-white bags, handed my parents paperwork.
“They just need their signatures on those contracts,” Eldin said.
“To make us Americans?” I asked.
“To promise we’ll pay back the three thousand dollars of the airfare,” he said.
We’d been told only, “Someone will meet you at baggage claim.” We didn’t know who. I wished we could just go home, but we didn’t have one anymore.
After our passports were stamped, a tall white man held up a sign with our last name. “Welcome to America, Kenan,” he said, smiling, shaking our hands.
“Thank you, Sir,” I said in English. I hoped he’d like me, sensing our lives were in his hands.
“I’m Donald Hodges, a Methodist minister. Call me Don.”
I’d never seen a Methodist before.
“I’m from the Interfaith Council, the churches and synagogues sponsoring you,” he said. “You’re our first refugees. Are you hungry? Thirsty?”
In the parking lot he gave us apple juice, turkey sandwiches and crunchy Chips Ahoy cookies. I still remembered that act of kindness.
“We’re going to Westport, Connecticut, an hour away,” Don said.
We stayed in his home for five months. Like many immigrants, a rough road lay ahead.
“We’ll be nobodies here so you and your brother can be somebodies someday,” my parents said.
Dad slung chicken at a fast-food joint and worked in a bottle top company refusing welfare, until he had a stroke. Mom babysat, then found a factory job, too, before she got the cancer we lost her to. My 76-year-old Grandma Emina was so distraught by the death of her youngest daughter at 52, she had a fatal heart attack at the Bosnian memorial service.
It wasn’t all pain, however.
I proudly became a U.S. citizen in 2001. My roommates at the University of Hartford threw me a “Welcome to America” party with red, white and blue balloons. Now 36, I’m a PT, like my brother. We take care of my father in Astoria, a short drive from where we first landed.
Seeing Muslims stopped and turned away at U.S. airports not along ago, after President Donald Trump’s executive order for a Muslim country ban, I wondered what would have happened if we’d been detained at Kennedy Airport, questioned, then sent back to the Balkans. We may not have survived. I realize how lucky my family is that this country took in 169,000 Bosnian war refugees.
I am grateful to the church and synagogue members who helped us, the doctors and dentists who treated us for free, and to our lifelong friend, the Reverend Don Hodges, the first American to extend his hand at the airport, welcoming us to our new homeland. I even wrote a book about my experiences with a Jewish teacher. We call it a Jewish/Muslim story of healing about the Christians in Connecticut who saved my family.
Kenan Trebincevic is the coauthor with Susan Shapiro of World In Between: Based on a True Refugee Story
From School Library Journal
★ "In this moving autobiographical novel, author Trebinčević recalls his family’s harrowing emigration from Yugoslavia’s Bosnia province to the United States when he was 11 years old....Trebinčević provides backstory to help readers understand the political forces that tore his home country apart, balancing that information with his own youthful bewilderment and anger, with which readers will readily empathize....The author’s note provides fascinating details about the book’s evolution and Kenan’s collaboration with his coauthor. An essential purchase for all middle grade collections, as well as school curricula on contemporary world history and immigration."—School Library Journal, STARRED review ★ "Sharing a time and experience that has little exposure for most younger readers, Kenan’s emotions and actions bring to life the common threads of growing up and discovering new favorite things....Highly recommended for its emotional and historical perspectives, this is an insightful starting point for understanding one family's refugee experience, as well as the complexities of the Bosnian War."—Booklist, STARRED review "This title shows how, despite cultural and geographic differences, people everywhere are sometimes drawn to malice but more often to generosity and good. Shows how, for refugees, the struggle for survival doesn’t end when you leave home."—Kirkus "The immediacy of Kenan’s narration will allow other transplanted children to relate and kids with more fortunate lives to contemplate the thin line between safety and tragedy. An author’s note explains a little more about his process and work with his co-author."—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books "Scenes come alive through the first-person voice and abundant dialogue....a long, intricately detailed narrative that effectively weaves in enough historical background to make events understandable for young readers." —The Horn Book —
- Publisher : Clarion Books (July 27, 2021)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 384 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0358439876
- ISBN-13 : 978-0358439875
- Reading age : 8 - 12 years
- Grade level : 3 - 7
- Item Weight : 1.05 pounds
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 1.47 x 8.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #328,730 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Reviewed in the United States on July 28, 2021
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Suspense builds as we wonder if Kenan and his Muslim family will escape from Bosnia and we are
rooting for them as they arrive as refugees in the United States with no money and little English. It was heartwarming how the American students in his first school here embraced Kenan, an avid soccer player. Soccer became the universal language of acceptance.
The young refugee voice really comes through as Kenan longs to return to Bosnia and wonders why and how his friends and favorite teacher turned on him during an ethnic cleansing war. How could they be so heartless? What happened to his family members that did not escape to the USA?
World In Between is an inspiring story of immigrant adjustment and survival, made possible by caring people of faith who took in this family and helped them get established. A lot of credit also goes to the author’s parents who made great sacrifices so Kenan and his older brother Eldin could succeed in the USA. I enjoyed this touching middle grade novel and look forward to passing it on to the young readers in my family.
Kenan's anger was realistic as a boy who wants to fit in and make his way with friends and adults in his new world of America. I recommend this novel. A page turner with short chapters for good pacing of this story. KUDOS Kenan and Susan!
By Lisasolo on July 28, 2021