Faulstich Orellana's book captures the promise and potential of working within transcultural spaces with immigrant children. Stemming from her significant experience as an activist, teacher, and researcher, the author draws from extensive ethnographic data of ‘B-Club’, an after-school programme for elementary school students in central Los Angeles, where her research team and undergraduate mentors work collaboratively within a ‘pedagogy of the heart’ to create an empowering space for children. Through a seamless combination of theory and practice, Faulstich Orellana addresses critical social issues in a context of globalisation without ever losing sight of the real people at the heart of her investigation. While the author weaves several voices throughout the book, it is those of the multilingual children who shine. Conceptually and methodologically, there are important insights to be gained for those working in sociolinguistics and linguistic anthropology.
The introduction and overview set the scene by elaborating on key concepts including borders and transnationalism, and explore the sociohistorical context that scaffolds the ethnography. Reconciling theory on transnationalism and globalisation with the actual experiences of B-Club children, the author laments the absence of children's perspectives, a central theme of her work. We are also introduced to the central notion of love as a key ingredient in strengthening connections in the face of societally erected borders and boundaries. The political climate in the United States serves as a poignant reminder of what is at stake, inviting the reader to give serious consideration to a reimagining of what is possible.
In ch. 2, the author invites the reader into B-Club's pedagogical space, detailing the ‘blurring’ of borders within this. Seeing beyond the ‘chaos’ is shown to be an important lesson for the undergraduate students, simultaneously reminding the reader to be aware of societally constructed ideas of teaching and learning. The regular re-creation of the centre's ‘Acuerdos’ (a co-created set of agreements) exemplifies the collaborative power relations at B-Club. Ch. 3 outlines both the difficulties and promise involved in learning to ‘see with the heart’ by stepping outside of one's internalised lived experience. Of particular value for researchers is the insistence on reflexivity as more than a confessional, but rather something to continually engage with in the aim of understanding one's own positionality vis-à-vis others. The author skilfully exemplifies this philosophy as she laces her own reflexive considerations throughout the text in attempts to make sense of her own assumptions.
Ch. 4 details the sociocultural and sociohistorical learning theories that underpin B-Club, including key Vygotskian constructs of the Zone of Proximal Development, authenticity, and support. Examples bring these constructs to life, at once engaging with the idea of ‘love’ as a driving force, and providing clear distance from notions of normativity in education. Chs. 5 and 6 focus on globalisation, considering the children's understanding of the world around them and their perspectives on border crossing. The ‘talking globe’—an electronic, computerised globe that plays national anthems and announces facts about different countries—is a rich source of discovery for the children. It represents the significance of global connections, and their own negotiations of transnational belonging. In this sense, the talking globe serves as an implicit symbol contributing to a developing counter-narrative of hope, gently yet firmly rejecting notions of borders as divisive and destructive. The author also explores with the children their immediate surroundings (focusing on the heterogeneity of the urban landscape), connecting their everyday lived experience with wider global contexts. The children, the undergraduate mentors, and the author all engage differently with their surroundings, resulting in perceptions of injustice sitting alongside those of beauty, happiness, and human connection. We are left in no doubt as to the empowering properties of differing perspectives.
Ch. 7 links notions of love, learning, and literacy. The depiction of the mysterious character of ‘X’ is a highlight. An appealingly unnamed and unknown entity, X's dual function is to stimulate literacy practices and elicit children's perspectives by writing to them and asking about aspects of their lives. This is but one way in which transcultural competencies of empathy and willingness to connect are fostered at B-Club. These key competencies are given precedence in the next three chapters, which deal with transculturation, translanguaging, and transliteracies. In ch. 8, Faulstich Orellana conceptualises the prefix trans as ‘a movement beyond borders’ (91), as ‘questioning the ontologies that hold things apart’ (91). In their border crossing, the children at B-Club often take on the role of language and culture brokers, a role that feeds into wider transcultural competencies. By acknowledging the expertise and potential of such dexterity, the author and her research team cast a positive light on research with immigrant youth.
Ch. 9 explores translanguaging in depth. Language practices at B-Club hinge on flexible repertoires. Pushing back against the linguistic hegemony of English, the children are encouraged to draw from their multilingual toolkits to make meaning, skills that are by no means new for them. Such practices are normalised and validated, providing a powerful rationale for the incorporation of translanguaging in classrooms. In ch. 10, efforts to cultivate transliteracies prove revealing. The fluidity with which kids moved between languages was not enacted in written linguistic practices, with children more intent on ‘policing’ these borders. This hints at the pervasive strength of assumptions of who ‘should’ do what even at a young age. Faulstich Orellana reinforces the need to interrogate our own assumptions of what is ‘right’, urging educators to engage with the complexity of what the children are doing with their language, not merely where they ‘fall short’ based on normative standards. While many will find the argument particular cogent, this could cause reservation to long-term educational practitioners.
The final chapter focuses on the possibilities inherent in learning to see with the heart. The author addresses potential criticisms of disservice to immigrants. She addresses the argument that by encouraging a creative crossing of borders, we are preventing the acquisition of a ‘standard’ and thus valued level of English, which will potentially help immigrant children navigate barriers. Here, Faulstich Orellana is at her most eloquent. She urges us to learn from the perspectives and competencies of B-Club kids. Rather than firming up borders, she argues, we should embrace the versatility and potential that lies in breaking them down. The idea of reimagining what is possible is timely. Fostering transcultural competencies in a climate of love and acceptance should not be dismissed as an unattainable goal in an outcomes-driven educational setting. Rather, it should be taken up as a platform and philosophy for all those working with children today.
Conceptually and methodologically, there is much to gain for sociolinguists and linguistic anthropologists. Faulstich Orellana embraces current sociolinguistic concepts in her commitment to acknowledging complexity through the lens of superdiversity. Within a globalised framework, concepts of transculturation, translanguaging, and transliteracies are explored as part of an ‘appreciative inquiry’, seeking to foreground competencies that arise from the children's crossing of borders, rather than the associated ‘problems’. Importantly, she shows how these transformative practices become normalised at B-Club, and how they occur within the wider hegemonic structuring properties of English. This link between structure and agency forms part of the author's emphasis on connections, adding valuable nuance to interpretations anchored in the ‘reality’ of super diverse contexts where counter-discourses are nurtured within dominant monolingual ideological strongholds. Researchers needing further convincing of the value of such concepts and connections will find in this book many arguments worth considering.
Methodologically, this work speaks to the insights that can be gleaned from immersive and longitudinal ethnographic collection. Drawing on a multitude of data sources, and adopting a rigorous, ongoing reflexivity (as mentioned above), the author works ‘from below’ in order to see social processes with fresh eyes. As the author herself notes, children have been conspicuously absent from academic discussion around border crossing and immigration. This work begins to redress the imbalance, with the aim of learning from young people whose collective and varied experiences of transnationalism provide access to new perspectives. The vision of hope and promise that results is compelling, and points to the value in such programmes in moving towards social change.
Faulstich Orellana openly acknowledges that many may never be convinced of the arguments she is making. She assumes ownership of the academic freedoms and risks she takes in the book, mixing styles of writing and traversing disciplines and genres. This is not only refreshing, but a rather meta reminder that change of any kind can only be effected through questioning, and acting on, what has come to be seen as ‘normal’ through an adult lens. Academia is no exception. The book therefore lays a challenge to her academic readership on several levels. Such a vision is rarely delivered so carefully and convincingly, and we would all do well to enter into the reading of this book with our hearts and minds open—just as the teachers and children at B-Club would expect.