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Source Reviewed:

Of Beetles and Angels: A Boy's Remarkable Journey From a Refugee Camp to Harvard


Teenage - Adult


General Interest


Mawi Asgedom’s Of Beetles and Angels: A Boy’s Remarkable Journey From a Refugee Camp to Harvard is a valuable resource for classroom teachers. In this autobiographical memoir, Asgedom charts his journey from a refugee camp in Sudan to his present success as a Harvard graduate and highly sought-after public speaker. The inspirational journey begins in 1983, when Asgedom’s family left Sudan and traveled to America through World relief. A church in Wheaton, Chicago, then sponsored the family. Mawi remembers the “deepest homesickness” (23) that came with being six years old and moving into his new home in an “almost all white, and… crazy-rich” (22) suburb.
Mawi tells the story of immigration through his six-year-old, optimistic eyes. Driven and full of spirit, Mawi infuses his life with the lessons and wisdom he learned from his parents who always told their children that they “could do anything if [they] worked hard and treated others with respect” (34). Although Mawi struggles with homesickness, school children, language barriers, prejudice, and poverty, his drive to succeed and his positive messages are unwavering.


Particularly worthy of note, are Asgedom’s anecdotes from his transition into the American school system. Looking different, being poor, and being unable to speak English, made school tough on the Asgedom children. In a chapter called “Playground Warfare,” Mawi remembers the name-calling, fighting, bullying, and suspensions from elementary school. His recollections put the reader in the schoolyard with him and help to foster a more comprehensive idea of what life is often like for new students. This memoir introduces topics both relevant to students and teachers, and it includes a “Reading Group Guide” in the back that offers nine discussion topics to “help spark dialogue” (150) in a book club or classroom. Mawi has also included four Habesha recipes and a list of other books for suggested reading.


This would be an excellent book to read with or assign to new language learners; however, the vocabulary and pronunciations are challenging, and an included list of vocabulary would have helped. However, Mawi’s website (www.mawispeaks.com) does have a link to useful vocabulary and pronunciation for some of the Tigrynia words and names in his book.


Read the next reviews of Mawi Asgedom’s book The Code: The 5 Secrets of Teen Success, his resource Win the Inner Battle: The Ultimate Teen Journal, and his website www.mawispeaks.com for more information on bringing these resources into the classroom.

Your Recommendations:


Submitted by: Colleen Grandy


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