Out of Nowhere
By Maria Padian (Maine author)
Enniston has become a “secondary migration” location for Somali refugees, who are seeking a better life after their country was destroyed by war–they can no longer go home. Tom hasn’t thought much about his Somali classmates until four of them join the soccer team, including Saeed. He comes out of nowhere on the field to make impossible shots, and suddenly the team is winning, dominating even; but when Saeed’s eligibility is questioned and Tom screws up in a big way, he’s left to grapple with a culture he doesn’t understand and take responsibility for his actions. Saeed and his family came out of nowhere and vanish just as quickly. And Tom may find himself going nowhere, too, if he doesn’t start trying to get somewhere.
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Info: ISBN 9780375865800, Hardcover, $16.99
Setting: Fictional Maine town based on Lewiston, Maine
Featured Community: Franco American, Catholic American, Somali American, Muslim American
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Reviews & Accolades
“Between the language barriers and unfamiliar Muslim traditions and customs, this “secondary migration” has brought tension, uneasiness, and confusion to [Tom’s] high school and community. Meanwhile, Tom’s friend Donnie persuades him to deface a wealthy rival soccer team’s property; when caught, Tom is sentenced to community service: tutoring Somalis. There, he develops a crush on a college girl and receives an education about Somali culture, which gives him a new perspective on both his history and his future. Padian impressively handles many plot threads at once…The author gracefully explores the intersections between culture and religion, as well as suspicion and prejudice in a post-9/11 world. Her well-formed characters and realistic circumstances make for a large and powerful story about re-evaluating one’s beliefs.” –Publisher’s Weekly
“As more and more immigrants populate Enniston, rising tensions force Tom to pick sides. Richer towns, alarmed at the amazing soccer players among Enniston’s Somali immigrants, challenge the eligibility of star player Saeed. The concerns of locals–ranging from outright racism to worries about an infrastructure collapsing under the influx of English language learners–lead to taunts, fights and worse. Highlighting this tension (with an unexpected subtlety, compared to Tom’s tendency to explain facts about Somalia he learned on Wikipedia) are the French last names of almost all of Enniston’s white residents, grandchildren of Québecois once beaten in school for speaking French. Tom is a complex enough character to carry the heavy weight of racism, classism, sexism, culture shock and Islamophobia that comprise his story, with a believably encouraging coming-of-age.” –Kirkus Reviews
“Maria Padian, the author of two previous young adult novels (“Jersey Tomatoes Are the Best” and “Brett McCarthy: Work in Progress”), offers plenty of story in Out of Nowhere: romantic rivalries, class tensions, family pressures. She has a firm sense of plot, and the circumstances her characters grapple with — cyberbullying, the burden of a burnout friend, the pain of growing and changing — will resonate with young readers. Padian is trying a broader canvas here than in her previous work, grappling not just with people but also with their larger cultures…One can’t help rooting for her attempt to show us the wider world.” –The New York Times
I grew up in a family where the conversation at holiday dinners was a blizzard of accents. All four of my grandparents were immigrants, and their stories were woven deeply into the fabric of our third-generation lives. They were maids, butchers, bar keepers and bus drivers. They arrived in New York City with little besides youth and optimism, and relied on their churches and their contacts from “back home” to get established. So it was with great interest that I followed the arrival of new immigrants to my now-home state of Maine: Somali refugees, fleeing civil war in their own country, and resettling in unprecedented numbers in the city of Lewiston. Recalling my own grandparents, I wondered how these newcomers would fare.
As a Young Adult author, I’m naturally drawn to teens and adolescents: I love their passion and their candor. And as I met people from both Lewiston and Portland, both young and old, and spoke with them about receiving these newcomers or being these newcomers, I found that repeatedly my conversations with teens were uplifting and energizing and revelatory. My conversations with adults, except for a few cases, were dispiriting, political and cagey. At some point I decided I didn’t want to speak with adults any longer: I wanted to write a story about teens, from their perspective. It took a little searching and a few false starts, but I was finally fortunate enough to meet young people who not only had the command of English to tell me their stories, but also had the courage to trust me with their stories.
The resulting novel, Out of Nowhere, is inspired by anecdotes told to me by those young people, as well as accounts I’ve read about refugee communities elsewhere in the United States. I used recent historical events in Lewiston, Maine as the scaffolding for the plot, but the characters in the book are fictitious and much of what transpires is an amalgam of what I’ve heard, what I’ve studied, and what I’ve imagined. It would be a mistake to comb through these pages in search of actual people and things that really happened. Instead, I hope readers will come away with a greater understanding of what it means to be a stranger in new world as well as to receive a stranger in an established world.
Read more about Maria Padian’s experience writing Out of Nowhere here.
Suggested Supplemental Readings
From I Remember Warm Rain
“Guy Stuff” by Estella Omal
“Trouble Walking” by Farah Jama
“Family” by Mohamed Rashid Isaack
From New Mainers
Jose Castaneda, El Salvador
Khadija Guled, Somali
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