Coming Home by Gloria Javillonar Palileo
Juan de la Cruz is a young Filipino-American growing up in the eighties, a time shortly following the Civil Rights era in which American citizens whose skin color does not represent the norm are still treated with frightening unfairness. Juan plays video games, enjoys shopping at the mall, and watches television like the rest of American youth. He is a straight-A student who, on paper, has a bright future ahead of him in whatever career he chooses. Nevertheless, Juan (who would prefer his parents and classmates call him “John”) is waking up to the world around him, where his peers bully him because of his ethnicity, where “coming home” – that is, visiting family in the Philippines – feels more to Juan like leaving everything he knows for a strange and alien land.
Coming Home is an eye-opening read that – depressingly – remains as likely a story today as it did during Juan’s childhood thirty years ago. While racism is an inherently sensitive subject, Palileo frames it in such a way that readers are able to see not only the effects of prejudice, but its roots as well: oftentimes, it is from one’s parents, or classmates, or from the media that one learns to act a certain way toward certain people. Most intriguingly, we see the beginnings of prejudice taking hold in Juan’s parents, who have perhaps begun to mirror the behaviors of other community members. Whatever your lineage or upbringing, Coming Home is a compelling read that will hopefully spur readers into action. In light of recent events taking place in our country, we ought to feel driven to combat racism and prejudice wherever we observe it.
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