Book Review: Drita, My Homegirl
New York public elementary schools are often the first place that city kids interact on a deeper level with people of different ethnic, cultural, and racial backgrounds. As a New York public school teacher, Jenny Lombard, brings her expertise about diversity in the classroom to her debut novel, Drita, My Homegirl. Sure to be an impactful read-aloud for third graders, Drita is a story told from alternating first-person narratives of two fourth graders, Drita and Maxie. Drita, a Serbian refugee from war-torn Kosovo is a new student in a new country with very limited knowledge of the English language. She has just entered Miss Salvato’s class in her new public school in Brooklyn, New York. Maxie is an African-American girl, who has been keeping the secret of her mother’s death from her circle of friends. Her grief has turned into rebellion. As a way to harness Maxie’s energy, Miss Salvato perceptively assigns Maxie to research Drita’s story. An unlikely friendship begins to emerge. At times didactic, Drita is ultimately a lesson in empathy, addressing exclusion, immigration, poverty, loss, and friendship, but surprisingly leaving issues related to race in America untouched. Drita is a satisfying read for students who appreciate a tidy ending. Drita, My Homegirl is the perfect primer for reading R.J. Polacio’s Wonder a couple of years later.