I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives
Caitlin Alifirenka & Martin Ganda
with Liz Welch
with Liz Welch
Genre: Young Adult
Summary (from Goodreads): The true story of an all-American girl and a boy from an impoverished city in Zimbabwe and the letter that changed both of their lives forever.
It started as an assignment. Everyone in Caitlin's class wrote to an unknown student somewhere in a distant place. All the other kids picked countries like France or Germany, but when Caitlin saw Zimbabwe written on the board, it sounded like the most exotic place she had ever heard of--so she chose it.
Martin was lucky to even receive a pen pal letter. There were only ten letters, and forty kids in his class. But he was the top student, so he got the first one.
That letter was the beginning of a correspondence that spanned six years and changed two lives.
In this compelling dual memoir, Caitlin and Martin recount how they became best friends --and better people--through letters. Their story will inspire readers to look beyond their own lives and wonder about the world at large and their place in it.
Marcie's Review: This is the inspirational story of how an upper middle class girl and her family from America help a destitute Zimbabwean boy achieve his dreams of education. Reading that sentence I just wrote makes it seem like this book has a white-savior complex going on, and it does, but the authors are careful to emphasize how close a friendship they shared in order to make friendship the biggest theme in the book. It is also obvious that Caitlin grew from a shallow and spoiled middle schooler into a caring and generous high schooler, and that this personal growth was due in large part to her friendship with Martin.
I find it difficult to believe that some of the letters were written by children - they are obviously unusually talented at writing and sharing their deepest emotions.
As I was reading, I kept wondering what I would do if my child told me that she wanted to send money to her penpal overseas. I fear that I would be skeptical and worry that she was falling for some kind of scam, but I can only hope that I would respond as generously as Caitlin and her family and make a huge difference in a child's life.
Marcie's Rating: 4 stars
Becky's Review: I loved reading this story about how Caitlin and Martin became friends through letters and how they helped each other become the people they are today. They began writing letters when they were in middle school and at first their letters were about music they like and other surface topics. Martin became desperate because of the poverty that he and his family lived in. Martin knew he needed to stay in school in order to better his life but the family didn't have enough money. He asked Caitlin for help and from there Caitlin's eyes were opened to how privileged her life was and how little Martin's family had. I was amazed by both families: the generosity that Caitlin's family showed and the positive attitudes Martin's family displayed even in the hardest times.
Becky's Rating: 5 stars