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“Life is only a prison if you make it one. Think of this more like...God’s waiting room,” Fatuma. –When Stars Are Scattered

When Stars Are Scattered

by Victoria Jamieson & Omar Mohamed
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At A Glance
Interest Level

9+
Entertainment
Score
Reading Level
3.2
Number of Pages
264

Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, have spent most of their lives in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. Life is hard there: never enough food, achingly dull, and without access to the medical care Omar’s nonverbal brother needs. So, when Omar has the opportunity to go to school, he knows it might be a chance to change their future…but it would also mean leaving his brother, his only remaining family member, every day.

Omar Mohamed’s story comes to life in this graphic novel about his childhood in a refugee camp. The story shows the heartbreaking events that lead to Omar going to a refugee camp when he was only four. Omar’s story chronicles the hunger, heartbreak, and harsh conditions he endured. Omar is still able to create a sense of family and home in the midst of difficult situations. His story will shed light on the struggles refugees must endure and the hope that many refugees lose as they wait for conditions to improve in Somalia.

Like all people, Omar is a complex character who struggles to make the right decisions. He also often has conflicting emotions. For example, Omar wonders if his mother is dead or alive. He thinks, “I love my mom, but sometimes I hate her for leaving us. It’s like these two feelings are tearing me apart.” Despite the harsh conditions, Omar continues to go to school because he hopes to one day be a social worker and help other refugees. Omar wonders if school is a waste of time; however, his foster mom tells him, “Prepare yourself and educate yourself. So you can be ready when God reveals his plan to you.”

Through Omar’s eyes, the reader gets a firsthand account of how most girls are treated in the refugee camp. While most boys go to school, girls are expected to stay at home and help with the chores. One of Omar’s friends, Maryam, works hard in school because she dreams of leaving the refugee camp and going to college. Instead of going to middle school, Maryam is married and is soon pregnant. Maryam’s dreams are shattered, but she hopes that her daughter will not be “forced to quit school to get married.”

The story teaches several important life lessons including not to judge others and to make the most of your life. Appreciating what you have is the overarching theme of When Stars Are Scattered. Omar’s best friend tells him, “I didn’t ask for this limp. But I didn’t ask to live in a refugee camp either… I guess you just have to appreciate the good parts and make the most of what you’ve got.” Despite his struggles, Omar makes the most of what he has been given and thanks God for the love of others.

Omar shares his story because he wants to encourage others to never give up on home. Omar says, “Things may seem impossible, but if you keep working hard and believing in yourself, you can overcome anything in your path.” When Stars Are Scattered not only encourages others to remain persistent, but it also sheds light on the conditions of the refugee camps without getting into a political debate on immigration. Instead, the graphic novel focuses on Omar’s story—his hardships, his hopes, his despair, and his desire to help others like him.

Sexual Content

  • Maryam’s family needs the money, so they allow Maryam to get married despite that she is only in middle school. “Maryam’s husband is old, but he’s not too strict.”

Violence

  • When Hassan hugs a boy, the boy pushes him away. The boy tells Omar, “I don’t know why you bother taking care of this moron. He’s a waste of space. You should let him wander off into the bush to get eaten by lions.” Omar punches the boy, and they get into a fight. An older woman breaks up the fight.
  • While Omar is at school, Hassan wanders off and some kids “took his clothes, and… He’s pretty badly hurt.”
  • When Omar’s best friend says he’s going to America, Omar thinks about the resettlement process. He thinks, “I heard about one guy… His case was rejected by the UN and he couldn’t handle it. He… He killed himself.”
  • During an interview with the United Nations, Omar talks about the village he came from. Omar was playing under a tree when he heard men yelling at his father. Then, “Bang! Bang! Bang!” Omar ran to his mother, who told Omar to take his brother and run to the neighbor. The neighbor hides them inside, but “then I heard gunshots, and screaming, and soon the whole village was running. There were angry men everywhere.” Omar and his brother run and stay with the people from the village, but they never see their mother again. The event is described over three pages.

 Drugs and Alcohol

  • Some of the men in the refugee camp chew khat leaves. The leaves help people “forget.”

Language

  • The story has some mild name-calling, such as idiot, jerk, and dodo head. For example, Omar thinks that one of the boys his age is “kind of a jerk.”
  • While walking to school, someone yells at two girls, “Hey it’s the mouse and the shrimp.”
  • When Omar learns that all of the teachers speak in English, he thinks, “Oh crud.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • A man tells Omar that he should be in school. The man says, “You have a gift, Omar. You’re smart. And when God gives you a gift, it is your job to use it.”
  • Omar’s foster mom tells him, “If it is God’s will that you should go to school, then I won’t stand in his way. I think you should look deep inside yourself and see what God is telling you to do. If this is God’s will, then he will make everything ok.” Later, Omar thanks God “for all the good things that we have.”
  • When Omar decides to go to school, he prays “that I’m making the right decision.”
  • Omar’s foster mom tells him that God has given Hassan gifts. “Hassan is considerate, helpful, and friendly.”
  • When the community comes together to help Hassan, Omar thinks, “We may be refugees and orphans, but we are not alone. God has given us the gift of love.”
  • When Omar wonders if he should continue going to school, his foster mom tells him, “We never know what will happen in our lives, do we? God surprises us, and provides when he will… So stay in school. Prepare yourself and educate yourself. So you can be ready when God reveals his plan to you.”
  • Omar goes to Dugsi. He explains, “Dugsi is where we go to learn the Quran… Our Imam leads us in reciting a verse from the Quran.”
  • During Ramadan, the Muslim’s holy month, Muslims are supposed to fast from sunrise to sunset. Even though many in the refugee camp are always hungry, “people in the camp fast anyway… Just because we’re poor and hungry doesn’t mean we can’t observe the holy month.”
  • During Eid, Omar prays “for me and Hassan. That we’ll find a way out of this refugee camp—that someday we will find a home.”
  • When a social worker brings Omar a school uniform, he thinks, “you just try your best, and God will find a way to help you when you need it.”
  • Even though life has dark moments, Omar believes that “God will deliver an answer, and you’ll find a faith out of the darkness. The kindness of strangers. The promise of new friends.”
  • When Omar is waiting to see if he will be resettled in America, he thinks, “We’ve done all we can. It’s in God’s hands now.”
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“Life is only a prison if you make it one. Think of this more like...God’s waiting room,” Fatuma. –When Stars Are Scattered

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