THE NEW KIDS
Big Dreams and Brave Journeys at a High School for Immigrant Teens
Some walked across deserts and mountains to get here. Others flew in on planes. One arrived after escaping in a suitcase. And some won’t say how they got here.
These are “the new kids”: new to America and all the routines and rituals of an American high school, from lonely first days to prom. They attend International High School at Prospect Heights in Brooklyn, which is like most high schools in some ways—its halls are filled with students gossiping, joking, flirting, and pushing the limits of the school’s dress code—but all of the students are recent immigrants learning English. Together, they come from more than forty-five countries and speak more than twenty-eight languages.
A singular work of narrative journalism, The New Kids chronicles a year in the life of a remarkable group of these teenage newcomers—a multicultural mosaic that embodies what is truly amazing about America.
Hauser’s unforgettable portraits include Jessica, kicked out of her father’s home just days after arriving from China; Ngawang, who spent twenty-four hours folded up in a small suitcase to escape from Tibet; Mohamed, a diamond miner’s son from Sierra Leone whose arrival in New York City is shrouded in mystery; Yasmeen, a recently orphaned Yemeni girl who is torn between pursuing college and marrying so that she can take care of her younger siblings; and Chit Su, a Burmese refugee who is the only person to speak her language in the entire school.
The students in this modern-day Babel deal with enormous obstacles: traumas and wars in their countries of origin that haunt them, and pressures from their cultures to marry or drop out and go to work. They aren’t just jostling for their places in the high school pecking order—they are carving out new lives for themselves in America.
Reviews & Interviews
A People magazine “Great Read”
“The stories of these kids are simply astonishing.” —Talk of the Nation, NPR (Listen to the episode)
“A refreshing reminder of the hurdles newcomers to this country still face and how many defy the odds to overcome them.” —The New York Times (Read the article)
“Required reading . . . Hauser’s first book is a real-life ‘Tower of Babel’ (but with raging hormones) where kids from over 45 different countries share a school in Prospect Heights. Hauser, a fly-on-the-wall narrator, describes what it’s like to be a young immigrant in America, from raunchy school dances to after-school seminars on how to avoid deportation, along with the everyday problems teens in America face.” —New York Post
“Brooke Hauser, who spent a year following members of the senior class, delivers a rich, extraordinarily moving account of the challenges they met—and the many ways in which kids are the same the world over.” —Parade
“Hauser’s writing resonates with the message she forwards, which is epitomized by International and its cohorts: ‘Keep hope breathing.’ Hauser provides a clear view into the mindset of immigrant teenagers. In doing so, she succeeds in telling a story about people rather than a school. Highly recommended.” —Library Journal
“Enlightening, highly readable. Hauser paints a portrait of the ambitious, energetic school by following a cross section of students over the course of a year. Hauser clearly cares about the students whose lives she entered for a year, as does the reader, who rejoices for those who get word of scholarships in the spring and regrets the outcomes of undocumented students who are “wait-listed for life.” —Booklist
Listen to Reading, Writing, Immigrating, The Brian Lehrer Show, WNYC
Read Author Brooke Hauser Discusses ‘The New Kids’ In American High Schools, The Huffington Post
Read UN of Learning in Author’s Backyard, the New York Daily News
“This wonderful book connects us to the complexity, intensity and liveliness of refugee and immigrant teenagers. Hauser is masterful at storytelling. The New Kids is a must read for anyone interested in teaching, teens, or our new America. It does what the best writing does: it increases our moral imaginations.” —Mary Pipher, author of Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls
“Heartbreaking, hopeful, and utterly enthralling. The New Kids is the spellbinding account of what happens when students like Ngawang, who began his journey to America zipped inside a suitcase, meet the kind of teachers willing to confront bootleggers who use kids as slave labor. For real-life drama and a glimpse of America at its best, The New Kids is unbeatable.” —Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes, and The Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
“Brooke Hauser’s The New Kids is beautifully written and deeply moving account of young people trying to find their place in the new America.” —Warren St. John, author of Outcasts United and Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer
“The trust between Brooke Hauser and her teenage subjects infuses her prose. This unique bond embodies the kind of special connection that I, as a documentary filmmaker, continuously strive for. With grace, compassion, and humor, she captures the complexity and intricacies of the young immigrant experience in the U.S. and teaches us something new about the changing face of our country through the unflinching eyes of its next generation.” —Ross Kauffman, director of the Academy Award-winning documentary, Born Into Brothels
“The U.S. Census tells us that the most diverse generation in history is growing up today in America. The New Kids takes us into the hallways, drama clubs, science labs, and prom nights of this profound demographic shift. Here we find endearing and impossibly brave teenagers, trying to disengage their thoughts from the slaughter, hunger, and persecution they escaped in order to focus on civics class, hip-hop slang, tight jeans, SAT tests, and how to become ‘real Americans.’ Brooke Hauser is a compassionate and spell-binding storyteller; she has won the trust of these young people; and we older Americans should feel profoundly optimistic and grateful that such talented youth have chosen our country.” —Melissa Fay Greene, author of There Is No Me Without You