Home of the Brave - CJ Freshmen Read Relatable Story

Thought-provoking, meaningful and timely – “Home of the Brave” tells the story of a young immigrant’s journey from war-torn Sudan to Minnesota. It’s a journey that is relatable for Chaminade Julienne first-year students.

“It deals with the idea of finding a place to belong, a sense of home,” said Molly Bardine, CJ English department chair. “That’s something our freshmen can relate to.”

As the main character Kek says in Katherine Applegate’s book, “I want to be in a place where the things I love and know are within my reach. But where is that place?”

From a desire to belong and create new friendships to the challenges of new educational experiences, Kek has much in common with first-year students, one of the reasons the English department chose the work as an all-freshman read last year. The engaging book in verse is again being read in all freshmen English classes.

“One of the things my freshmen really enjoyed about 'Home of the Brave' is that it shares the experience of a young boy who is coming to America for the first time and experiencing something new which is similar to what my freshmen experienced when they came to CJ for the first time,” CJ English teacher Katlyn DeLong said. “My students really connected with the story of Kek and some of his struggles and, in the end, they kind of cheered him along as he made his way to understand more about who he was and how he fit in with his new community.”

The CJ all-freshman read was first discussed prior to the 2019-20 school year as a way to create a shared experience for all first-year students.

“It was presented to the academic council and we moved forward with it,” Bardine said.

The book’s themes extend beyond belonging into diversity and inclusivity.

“It also aligns with the themes of Catholic social teaching,” Bardine said. “And it is so timely with the situation in Afghanistan and all of the refugees from that country.”

Beyond English classes, other departments have been invited to integrate the book into their lesson plans. Bardine sees a variety of opportunities to make meaningful connections in other courses such as world cultures and religion.

“This could be the start of a tradition at CJ – an all-freshmen read,” she said. “The book's theme of finding a new home and having a sense of belonging is so important for our new students as they find a new home and community at CJ.”

--This story was published on September 9, 2021.