Sanctuary by Paola Mendoza & Abby Sher

This one was hard to read. The characters in this novel experience such heartbreaking hardship! 

Sanctuary is set in a dystopian future. This setting is a bit more terrifying than your typical novel of this kind, because it seems all too close to reality.

Vali, her Mami, and Papi escaped the dangers of their homeland and entered the U.S. as illegal immigrants. Prior to the book’s timeline her Papi was arrested, returned to Columbia, and then murdered. Now Mami works very hard to keep food on the table and and their immigration status hidden. In Vali’s world, all U.S. citizens are microchipped, and those chips could be scanned at any time by militant enforcers. When a huge crackdown on illegal immigration is instituted, Vali and her family are forced to run. 

This story will rip your ❤️ out. The authors do not hold back in describing the violence and indignities these people are forced to endure. Reading this caused me to consider how easily Americans might come to justify holocaust-like treatment of humans when politicians define them as an “Other”. It also caused me to put my own problems in context. I worry about things that aren’t important while people around the world are looking for a safe haven, clothing, food, and water. This one will make you think for sure. 

More Resources

Whenever I read about a protagonist with a culture different from my own, I love to research the foods that are mentioned in the story. Food is such an important part of society and family. We all have favorite family recipes that are associated with memories. Finding out more about what the protagonists are cooking is a lot of fun and helps to bring the story to life. Here are some Columbian recipes from Sanctuary:

Hauevos Pericos

This Columbian recipe is scrambled eggs with tomatoes, cheese, and scallions. Since food supplies are limited the family is grateful to be able to cook this comforting meal.


The blog Sweet y Salado explains that ” For us Colombians the arepa is an essential ingredient of every dish in our country. We eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, with eggs, butter, meat, bacon, as a side dish for soups, stews, beans, in short, we eat it daily and to many, if their plate does not come with the blessed arepa, they’re not satisfied.” In Sanctuary Ernie, Vali, and Mami eat arepas with ajiaco.


This is a traditional Columbian chicken and potato soup.

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