Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation

Written By: Edwidge Danticat

Illustrated by: Leslie Staub

For Ages: 5 years and up

Language: English & Haitian Creole

Topics Covered: Immigration, ICE, Activism, Family, Undocumented, Family, Detainment, Poetry, Imagination, Own Voices.


Mama’s Nightingale follows a young girl named Saya whose mother is detained for being undocumented. In an emotional narrative, Saya yearns for her mother’s voice to tell her stories. Saya’s mother starts recording tapes with bedtime stories on it for her to listen to at bedtime, and Saya visits her mother with the dad every week. Saya’s Papa writes letters on behalf of his wife every week, but no one responds. Saya writes a letter to the newspaper, and a reporter decides to come interview her! Because of the news story, Saya’s mother is granted a hearing in front of a judge.

This book is beautiful and heartfelt. Despite being published in 2015, it is still timely as there are thousands of undocumented folks in detention centers and camps across the US. An unconscionable amount of these detained are children that have been separated from their parents, a most heinous act perpetrated by ICE. Author Edwidge Danticat wrote this book as a combination of her own experiences being separated from her parents when she and her brother were in Haiti and they were in the States, as well as the children she met once living in Florida that had parents and family members detained for being undocumented. The author’s note in the back gives some stats and figures, although I’m sure they’re much higher now, especially given the current administration. Human beings are NOT illegal. Families should be together. Children should never be in cages. Please vote in November.

This book was sent to us in an Equal Opportunity Book Box, and published by Penguin Young Readers. All opinions are my own!

Edwidge Danticat

Edwidge Danticat is the author of several books, including Breath, Eyes, Memory, an Oprah Book Club selection, Krik? Krak!, a National Book Award finalist, The Farming of Bones, The Dew Breaker, Create Dangerously, Claire of the Sea Light, and Everything Inside. She is also the editor of The Butterfly’s Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States,  Best American Essays 2011,  Haiti Noir and Haiti Noir 2. She  has written seven books for  children and young adults, Anacaona, Behind the Mountains, Eight Days, The Last MapouMama’s Nightingale, Untwine, My Mommy Medicine, as well as a travel narrative, After the Dance. Her memoir, Brother, I’m Dying, was a 2007 finalist for the National Book Award and a  2008 winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography.  She is a 2009 MacArthur fellow, a 2018 Ford Foundation “The Art of Change” fellow, and the winner of the 2018 Neustadt International Prize and the 2019 St. Louis Literary Award. 

Leslie Staub

Leslie Staub is a children’s book author and illustrator from New Orleans, LA. She works in her studio in the country north of there with her dog, rabbit, and all the wild creatures who live in the woods.

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