Title: My Name is Sangoel
Author: Karen Lynn Williams, Khadra Mohammed
Age: 7 – 9 years
Publisher: Eerdmans: June 1, 2009
Theme/Topics: self-identity and belonging, refugee, new home/country, making new friends, loss/loneliness.
Don’t worry, the wise one said as Sangoel prepared to the leave the refugee camp. “You carry a Dinka name. It is the name of your father and of your ancestors before him.
The wise man hugged him and Sangoel could feel his bones in his thin arms. “Remember, you will always be a Dinka. You will be Sangoel. Even in America.”
Sangoel is a refugee. Leaving behind his homeland of Sudan, where his father died in the war, he has little to call his own other than his name, a Dinka name handed down proudly from his father and grandfather before him.
When Sangoel and his mother and sister arrive in the United States, everything seems very strange and unlike home. In this busy, noisy place, with its escalators and television sets and traffic and snow, Sangoel quietly endures the fact that no one is able to pronounce his name. Lonely and homesick, he finally comes up with an ingenious solution to this problem, and in the process he at last begins to feel at home.
Teacher Guide for the book: http://www.karenlynnwilliams.com/files/sangoel_guide.pdf
Why I like this book: I love books where the main character, the child, can identify their problem and then solve their problem. Most times I think adults do not give children the credit they deserve and opportunity to shine. In this story, Sangoel does just that. He shines. A Dinka refugee from Sudan, Sangoel has nothing but his mother, sister and his name. A name he is proud of. But it is also a name no one can pronounce correctly. Most immigrants I know change their names to something easy, more American. But not Sangoel. He finds a fun and creative way to keep his Dinka name and pride while teaching others how to say his name correctly. In fact, I was not pronouncing his name right as I read the book until I got to the end and say OOOOOHHHHH! That’s how you say it!!! J