From Bombs to Books
by David Starr James
Lorimer & Company, 2011
$22.95, 187 pp, adult
From the first chapter to the last page, From Bombs to Books reveals the heart-wrenching story of one Canadian school and its unique identity as a gathering place for immigrant children and their families from war-torn and distressed countries throughout the world. Located in Burnaby, BC, Edmonds Community School strives to ease the transition of refugee families into Canadian life while offering an education to children whose first language is most often not English. The staff and community work to rebuild families and offer a future of hope and success to families overcoming the trauma of separation, rape, war, murder, starvation, or years spent in refugee camps.
Through retellings of the horrific stories behind the lives of his students, author and principal of Edmonds, David Starr relates the daily struggles of the students, the decades of inhumanity suffered by their families and the career-long heroics of the teachers and support staff at Edmonds; a place where daily survival and hope take precedence over the curriculum. And yet, through the persistence and ongoing professionalism of Edmonds staff, the children do often reach the pinnacles of success as shown in the story of Elaha who wins the area speech arts trophy. But too often there are the life-ending tragedies of people like Akol who due to injuries suffered in another country are not able to live to graduate from this remarkable school.
This is the book to read to remind ourselves why we become teachers. Beyond lesson plans and standards lies the human part of education. There are those days when we all feel that we have little influence on the lives of our students or an effect on the future direction of children in need of our support. The true life stories in From Bombs to Books are a reminder of the important work we all do when faced with the life challenges of children as they walk through our doors each day. This book reminds me to experience students as people in their own right and to teach them with my heart as much as with my mind.
Review by Kent Miller.
This review is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s Sept/Oct 2013 issue.