Nine-year old Mohammed, a Palestinian-American, is trying to navigate his way through his first week at a new school in a new city. He’s dealing with bullies and the intense curiosity of his classmates. At the same time he makes friends with another boy facing the same challenges and together they strategize their survival at school. Meanwhile, at home, Mohammad’s grandmother Sitti sees her grandchildren struggling to adapt. She decides to help them by sharing the story of her youth, growing up in Jerusalem and then a refugee camp in Bethlehem before coming to the United States. This is a heartwarming story of burgeoning cultural awareness and gaining a sense pride for family heritage amid the trials and travails of middle school life in America.
Being the new kid is always hard, but try starting the year with a name like Mohammed Omar Mohammed Abu Srour, with a homemade lunch of humus and za’atar. On top of that, on the very first day of school, a kid tells his older hijab-wearing sister to “go back where you came from.” Mohammed and his sister love their grandmother, but she thinks her stories about life in Palestine will help them with their problems. What does Grandmother’s ancient history have to do with classroom bullies? She never learned to read and Mohammed can’t even find Palestine on a map. Feels like fourth grade’s going to last forever.