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We Belong book cover

We Belong

In this novel in free verse, half-Filipino, half-white Stella and her younger sister Luna get a bedtime story of a Tagalog myth and their mother Elsie’s immigration to the United States from the Philippines.
We Belong book cover

Share this book

  1. In both of Elsie’s stories, families have to leave their homes with only what they can carry. Talk about why Mayari and Elsie had to leave their homes, the things they took with them, and the things they left behind. Have students consider what it would be like to be in Elsie’s situation, leaving a home, friends, and family that she loves. Some students may also have their own stories of voluntary or forced migration in their families or of leaving things behind and may wish to share their own experiences.
  2. In the poem “Take Only What You Can Carry,” Elsie shares all the things she wants to take with her. Have students create a list poem that includes the things they would want to take with them, the reasons why, and items, places, or people that would be missed.

Questions for Discussion or Reflective Writing

  1. What do the words “we belong” mean to you? Why do you think the author chose this as the title? Why do you think the author chose to write in verse?
  2. Before science, myths helped people from all different cultures to make sense of the natural world. Elsie shares the mythical tale of Maryari. Why do you think she chose this myth as a story to share with her daughters?
  3. How is Elsie’s story different or similar to other stories of immigrant families? Why is it important to hear stories like Elsie’s?
  4. Mayari and Elsie had to leave their homes behind. How important are the things they took with them? Are they just material objects? How were they important to their well-being, sense of self and belonging?
  5. What do you know about the Philippines? Did you know that there are more than 7,000 islands in the Philippines? What do you want to know about the Philippines?

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