Review by Jocelyn Tzu-Ling Yu
Imagine you must start your life on another planet. What difficulties would you encounter and how would you overcome them? Lan, his family, and 1,018 human refugees are searching for a sanctuary after humanity had destroyed Earth. We’re Not from Here is a middle-grade novel about what it means to be a refugee and what it takes to overcome prejudice the locals hold against refugees. Add to this that the locals are giant mosquitoes who consider humans extremely dangerous (after all, they had destroyed their own home planet). And that Planet Choom where the Zhuri mosquitos live is the only chance for humanity to survive.
Rodkey’s novel is a story about migration, but with a twist. Set in space, it brings up questions of difference that extends beyond race, ethnicity, culture or nationality. It emphasizes the fact of migrants as silent subjects who are voiceless and subject to whatever decisions Planet Choom make. Can you imagine traveling 20 years to a distant alien planet, hoping for it to become your new home, only to find, when you arrive, that the aliens had changed their mind and refuse to accept you? Can you also imagine being accused of all kinds of crimes and denied a chance to tell your story because the media is biased against immigrants and controlled by the government which scapegoats your group? These challenges are not as imaginary as they sound; they are currently experienced, in many insidious forms, by thousands of migrants and refugees on this planet! Bittersweet and poignant, this novel carries an important message: regardless of our race, ethnicity, and culture, we must definitely do a better job in recognizing the plight of refugees and welcoming them in our societies. Acceptance is the key.
We’re Not From Here, by Geoff Rodkey. (2019). Crown, 249 pgs.
Jocelyn is a graduate clinician in speech-language pathology who hopes never to be forced to settle on a planet of giant mosquitoes.