By Rose Cruz Churma
VOICE, Poetry by the Youth of Kalihi by the Students of Farrington High School. The book is independently published and was released on April 25, 2019 in two formats—as paperback and Kindle version, both available via Amazon at $5 per book. 133 p. ISBN-10: 1092996478 and ISBN-13: 978-1092996471.
This is a collection of poems written by Farrington High School students enrolled in the English Language Learner (ELL) program. This initiative was intended to create a platform for culturally and linguistically diverse youth who believe that they have no voice— that “they do not matter.”
The results are poems from the heart—stories of leaving one’s home for another land, searching for identity, seeking approval, and adjusting to a new language. The students write in English but also in the language or dialect that they grew up with, or can best express their feelings.
The book consists of two parts. The first part contains the poetry authored by more than 50 students from five ELL classes at Farrington High School during the 2018-19 school year. The second part provides insight into these students—through a photograph and a short statement from each author—their dreams and hopes for the future.
In the process of writing their poetry, the students were mentored by seasoned poets and authors who have the same experiences as immigrants--learning English as a second (or 3rd, 4th..) language, and trying to assimilate into a new culture, without losing one’s own.
As Amalia Bueno writes in the back cover of the book—“Working with these student poets to help find and express their voices in this amazing anthology has been a joyful, teaching and learning experience for me. Their beautifully crafted expressions of identity, poetics of place and love of community reflect that ‘poetry is not a luxury, it is a vital necessity of our existence.’ Their essential poems enrich all our lives.” Amalia, who served as one of several poets who conducted workshops for the students, is a published poet and fiction writer. She also teaches poetry at UH Manoa.
The book provides a snapshot of the thoughts and feelings of youth at the edges—children of immigrant families in one of O`ahu’s tough neighborhoods. In their own words, they tell us what it means to grow up in today’s Hawaii`i. It is a must read for educators, policymakers, parents — and those on the other more privileged side—so we can all realize that under the color of our skin, or the cadence of our accents, we’re all the same.
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