Welcoming Week

Every year, across the United States, communities celebrate and affirm the importance of being welcoming. The goal of Welcoming Week, which happens every September, is to bring together immigrants and their neighbors in an effort to strengthen and grow relationships. The unique perspectives and experiences that Pittsburgh’s international born community members offer contribute to the health and vitality of our region. The following list, featuring titles appropriate for children, teens, and adults, offers some perspective into the often incredibly harrowing journeys that your neighbors took get where they are now.

The Banana-Leaf Ball

Separated from his family when they were forced to flee their home, a young East African boy named Deo lives alone in the Lukole refugee camp in Tanzania. With scarce resources at the camp, bullies have formed gangs to steal what they can, and a leader named Remy has begun targeting Deo. Then one day a coach gathers all the children to play soccer. Though Deo loves soccer and has even made his own ball out of banana leaves, he’s unsure at first about joining in when he sees Remy on the field. But as Deo and the other boys get drawn into the game, everything begins to change. Their shared joy in playing provides the children — including Remy — with a sense of belonging.

Where Will I Live?

This photo essay explores what life is like for children who are forced to flee their homes, due to war, terror, hunger and natural disasters, and become refugees.

Lubna and Pebble

Lubna’s best friend is a pebble. Pebble always listens to her stories. Pebble always smiles when she feels scared. But when a lost little boy arrives in the World of Tents, Lubna realizes that he needs Pebble even more than she does.

Stormy Seas : Stories of Young Boat Refugees

Presents five true stories, from 1939 to today, about young people who lived through the harrowing experience of setting sail in search of asylum: Ruth and her family board the St. Louis to escape Nazism; Phu sets out alone from war-torn Vietnam; José tries to reach the United States from Cuba; Najeeba flees Afghanistan and the Taliban; and after losing his family, Mohamed abandons his village on the Ivory Coast in search of a new life. This title is also available as an eBook on Hoopla.


An illustrated picture book in which award-winning author Yuyi Morales tells her own immigration story.


Un libro ilustrado en el que la que autora galardonada Yuyi Morales cuenta su propia historia como inmigrante.


Although separated by continents and decades, Josef, a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany, Isabel, a Cuban girl trying to escape the riots and unrest plaguing her country in 1994, and Mahmoud, a Syrian boy in 2015 whose homeland is torn apart by violence and destruction, embark on harrowing journeys in search of refuge, discovering shocking connections that tie their stories together.

Nowhere Boy

The story of a fourteen-year-old Syrian refugee and a thirteen-year-old American boy who are bound by a secret that sets them on the adventure of a lifetime.

This title is also available for checkout as an eBook and as an eAudio on Hoopla. 

Love, Hate & Other Filters

Seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between her parents’ wish for her to go to a nearby college and marry a suitable Muslim boy and her own desire to go to film school in New York.

A Land of Permanent Goodbyes

Tareq lives with his big and loving family… until the bombs strike. The city is in ruins, and in the wake of destruction, he’s threatened by Daesh fighters and witnesses a public beheading. Tareq’s family knows that to continue to stay alive, they must leave. As they travel as refugees from Syria to Turkey to Greece, facing danger at every turn, Tareq must find the resilience and courage to complete his harrowing journey.

The Boat People

When a rusty cargo ship carrying Mahindan and five hundred fellow refugees from Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war reaches Vancouver’s shores, the young father thinks he and his six-year-old son can finally start a new life. Instead, the group is thrown into a detention processing center, with government officials and news headlines speculating that among the “boat people” are members of a separatist militant organization responsible for countless suicide attacks-and that these terrorists now pose a threat to Canada’s national security.

Call Me American: A Memoir

Abdi Nor Iftin first fell in love with America from afar. When U.S. marines landed in Mogadishu to take on the warlords, Abdi cheered the arrival of these real Americans, who seemed as heroic as those of the movies. Sporting American clothes and dance moves, he became known around Mogadishu as Abdi American, but when the radical Islamist group al-Shabaab rose to power in 2006, it suddenly became dangerous to celebrate Western culture. Forced to flee to Kenya, and eventually landing in America, this is the story of Abdi Nor Iftin’s journey. You can also check out this title as eBook on Overdrive/Libby.

The Girl Who Smiled Beads

Clemantine Wamariya was six years old when her mother and father began to speak in whispers, when neighbors began to disappear, and when she heard the loud, ugly sounds her brother said were thunder. In 1994, she and her fifteen-year-old sister, Claire, fled the Rwandan massacre and spent the next six years migrating through seven African countries, searching for safety–perpetually hungry, imprisoned and abused, enduring and escaping refugee camps, finding unexpected kindness, witnessing inhuman cruelty. Then, when Clemantine was twelve, she and her sister were granted refugee status in the United States; there, in Chicago, their lives diverged. You can also check out this title as eAudiobook on Overdrive/Libby and as eBook on Overdrive/Libby.