Home and the migrant experience

Migrant 1

‘Migrant’ by Maxine Trottier, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault.

As the youngest member of her large family, Anna has little choice but to follow along every spring when her family travels from their home in Mexico to Canada in search of farm work. As migrant workers, Anna’s parents and siblings face insecure employment and poor working conditions, and the empty farmhouses that they rent are often expensive and uninviting. Anna is too young to work and she can’t attend school, so she spends much of her time daydreaming. She imagines herself and her family as migrating birds and butterflies, and wonders what it would be like to have a permanent home, with roots sunk deeply in the earth.

When Anna’s family shops for groceries, Anna is shy because people often stare. Clearly, she dresses differently to them. She also struggles with a language barrier, because she and her Mennonite family speak low German. She doesn’t understand the chatter around her, which she describes as “a thousand crickets all singing a different song”.

Migrant 2

Discussion – Home, migration and belonging

  • What is a home?
  • Should everyone settle down?
  • What does it mean to be an outsider?
  • Is it possible to be an outsider in your own country?

Migrant 3

Discussion – Culture and community

  • What is a culture?
  • What’s the difference between a culture and a way of life?
  • Why do cultures exist?
  • Can a culture change, but still remain basically the same?
  • Why are cultures valuable?
  • What is a community?
  • Is belonging to a culture or community a matter of choice?

Migrant 4

Discussion – Language

  • How would we communicate without a language?
  • Would it be ideal to have just one language?
  • Are there some things that everyone can communicate, even without having a shared language?
  • What makes something a language? What about sign language?
  • What does it mean to know a word?

Migrant 5

  • Are words better at communicating than actions?
  • How do you know when someone is being silly or serious with their words?
  • Can we ever be completely successful in communicating with others?
  • How did we communicate before we had a language?
  • Would language exist if you were the only person on earth? 

Migrant sisters

Discussion – The nature of the imagination

  • What is imagination?
  • What’s the difference between imagining something and having a ‘real-life’ experience?
  • What are the differences between imagining and
    • …wondering?
    • …pretending?
    • …believing?
    • …empathising?

Migrant 6

Discussion – Using your imagination

  • Can you imagine being a bird?
  • Can you imagine being another person?
  • Can you imagine being in two different places at once?
  • What makes something hard to imagine?
  • Why do we use our imagination?

Migrant 7

Philosophical Allsorts:

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955)

“Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.” Hermann Hesse (1877 – 1962)

“The search for something permanent is one of the deepest of the instincts leading men to philosophy.” Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970)

“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.” Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889 – 1951)

“For in spite of language, in spite of intelligence and intuition and sympathy, one can never really communicate anything to anybody.” Aldous Huxley (1894 – 1963)

“We seldom realize… that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society.” Alan Watts (1915 – 1973)

“We breathe in our first language, and swim in our second.” Adam Gopnik (1956 – )

Migrant 8

The Philosophy Club runs co-curricular and extra-curricular workshops for children in Australia.




One response to “Home and the migrant experience

  1. Beautiful blog! Love the idea of exploring philosophy in picture books. This one is going on my Christmas list. I’m a huge fan of Isabelle Arsenault’s work, and can relate to some of the themes, having migrated to Australia with my family as a child.

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