Helen Thorpe was born in London to Irish parents. She is an award-winning journalist who lives in Denver, Colorado. Her journalism has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Texas Monthly, and 5280. She has also written three books, all published by Scribner.
Her first book, Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America, was published in 2009. It won the Colorado Book Award and was named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post. The Denver Center for the Performing Arts adapted the nonfiction book for the stage as a play.
Her latest book is The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom. In it, she follows the lives of twenty-two teenagers from around the world over the course of one school year as they land at South High School in Denver, Colorado, in a beginner-level English Language Acquisition class. Speaking no English and unfamiliar with American culture, they face the enormous challenge of adapting to life in the developed world even as they struggle to understand what their teacher is saying. The newcomer students come from nations convulsed by drought, famine, or war. Many arrive directly from refugee camps, some after having lost one or both parents. Together, their class represents a microcosm of the global refugee crisis as a whole. The Newcomers tells the story of what happens during the students’ first year in America, and it follows the journeys of three families in particular—from Iraq, Burma, and the Democratic Republic of Congo—illuminating what life is like in refugee-producing parts of the world. “Few books could be more vital, in this particular moment,” writes Jeff Hobbs (The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace). The book is due out from Scribner on November 14, 2017.