★★★★ Diary of a Witch’s Son by Oksana Leslie follows an immigrant family’s harrowing experiences with their unfriendly and oftentimes dangerous neighbors. Told through the perspective of the author’s young son, this is a work of thrilling, narrative nonfiction that details the trauma and heartache the family faces at the hands of Mrs. Burton, their jealous neighbor who is bent on destroying the family and having their matriarch arrested. Max Bush, the young son, writes in diary form of how Mrs. Burton makes untrue claims about his family to the police, though they have a difficult time proving the claims to be false. Finally, after a sequence of dramatic turns, the Bush family is able to prove their innocence and continue on with their lives and livelihood. Overall, this is an inspiring story about a hard-working immigrant family finding personal success and financial security through honesty, long hours, strong family bonds, and pure determination.
As this story is told through the eyes of the Bush family, the tone is often very innocent compared to the pain and suffering the family faces because of their neighbor’s lies. At times, the childlike point-of-view makes the adult drama hard to follow because Max is so far removed from the action around him. The author’s discussion of the differences between Russian and American culture shows the ways in which many children of immigrants have to navigate between the two cultures they straddle. This book is at its best when it is demonstrating the curious but sometimes confusing lives these children lead as a result of their mixed experiences, which inform everything from languages and traditions to holidays and societal expectations. Leslie’s true story is the perfect narrative for readers who are interested in immigrant stories with a charming touch of mystical elements.