Dear Mrs.Washburn (my teacher),
Hi! How are you doing? I am doing well. I have just finished the book Refugee by Alan Gratz. My favorite character is Josef, not because we have the same name, but because of how interesting his background was and what kind of person he was. He showed bravery by speaking up when the other mutineers were giving in. He also slapped his father even though he didn’t want to so he would be quiet when the doctor inspected him. If I didn’t know how old he was, I would think he was an adult.
When Josef went into the “German” part of the train, I knew things were not going to end well. He got caught by a Hitler youth, a person sworn to live and die for Hitler, but got lucky because the boy still had a sliver of good in him and let Josef off with no more than a warning. Although it was tempting to see how people would treat him if he wasn’t a Jew, it still wasn’t wise for Josef to go to the German part of the train because he could have been caught by someone less forgiving and gotten his family thrown off the train because he was being selfish. Later in the book when he agreed to storm the captain, Josef wasn’t open minded enough to see that there wasn’t anybody to drive the boat if they held the captain hostage. When his fellow mutineers decided to give in, he still stayed angry, even if the captain wasn’t bringing them back to Germany. One event that changed Josef was slapping his father in the face. When Josef slapped his father he saved his life, but not without changing their relationship. Afterwards, his father feels betrayed because the Germans came and ransacked their room, even though Josef says that if he stayed still, the Germans would leave him alone. After being accused of lying by his father, Josef feels guilty that he ever brought back memories of the concentration camp back to his father.
One theme I observed in the book is “What you do affects others more than you think”. Examples of this are when the Hitler youth on the train lets Josef leave without punishment. To him, it is just an act of kindness, but to Josef, it could mean the difference between life and death for him and his family. When the people in the boat rushed past Mahmoud (a refugee from Syria), he pleaded them to take his mom’s baby so she wouldn’t drown. Reluctantly, they eventually accepted the baby. Although there has to be someone to take care of the baby, her mom is in no condition to take care of her. By accepting the baby, they might have just saved her life if the waters became too dangerous. Lito, the policeman who rescued Josef’s father risked his own life for somebody who didn’t want theirs. If Josef’s father hadn’t jumped, he might not have had to risk his life. If Josef’s father had gotten killed, the entire ship (except for some of the crew) would be in a sour mood. Josef’s father is like the domino that could knock over the entire line with one mishap.
I feel that refugees are overlooked, even if they are in plain sight. Most refugees stay in camps for years, even decades just to be accepted into a new country. It is my responsibility to help refugees who need food or clothing. Austin can help with the refugee crisis by accepting refugees and starting programs that provide refugees with food, water and shelter. Our government is also capable of helping refugees by allowing them into our country. If everybody does these things, we can help refugees begone. From reading this novel, I opened my eyes to the life of refugees, hiding and running in fear. Everybody deserves human rights, regardless of their differences. I also learned about many cases of refugees that are similar and different in many different ways. I would recommend this book to others because other than being a good book, it teaches you about what it is like being a refugee and the different cultures of different people.
This book showed me a new way to look at not just refugees, but everybody that feels out of place and needs something they don’t have.