I Will Always Write Back

I Will Always Write Back

How One Letter Changed Two Lives

Book - 2016
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Grand Central Pub
The true story of an all-American girl and a boy from 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.

Martin was lucky to even receive a pen-pal letter. There were only ten letters, and fifty 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 their long-distance exchange. Their story will inspire you to look beyond your own life and wonder about the world at large and your place in it.


Baker & Taylor
Traces the friendship between an American girl and her pen pal from an impoverished region of Zimbabwe, describing how 12-year-old Caitlin wrote to an unknown student for a class assignment and shared a life-changing six-year correspondence. Simultaneous eBook. 35,000 first printing.

Publisher: New York : Little, Brown and Co., 2016, c2015
Edition: 1st pbk. ed
ISBN: 9780316241335
Characteristics: 402 p. ; 21 cm
Additional Contributors: Ganda, Martin

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I Will Always Write Back is a true story, even describable of a memoir, of the journey of two students from children to adults, separated by an ocean and worlds of cultural difference but connected by the simplest yet strongest of ties: words. When Caitlin Stoicsitz rather unwillingly picks Zimbabwe as the country to which to send her pen pal letter in seventh grade, it is received by Martin Ganda, a boy whose long-fought-for position as top student in his rural school allows him access to the few letters his school receives. Although many of Caitin’s classmates stop writing to their pen pals over time, Martin’s promise that he will “always write back” -- one of the few promises that he knows he can keep in the politically and economically torn climate of Zimbabwe, and one that he struggles with even in its simplicity -- leads them both to become extremely close and share their vastly different coming-of-age struggles.

This book was the most hopeful story, made even better by the fact that it is true, that I have read in a long time. Through Caitlin’s boy-craziness and first-world problems, through Martin’s terrifying experience of turmoil in Zimbabwe, through 9-11, through college admissions, there is always hope in the writing.

However, I felt that the language did not do justice to the story. Aside from the obvious concession to the fact that the first letters were written by a seventh-grader and that Martin’s first language is not English, even the narration between letters, even by Caitlin, comes across as rather basic. While this does contribute to the sense of hope and simple humanity of the entire book, I felt it took away from the flow and experience of the story.

White savior narrative? A little. But honestly, if you're looking for a bit of hope in the world at all—and who isn't—this book is the easy read for you.

JCLBeckyC Mar 01, 2017

2 1/2 stars for the audiobook, but 4 stars for the book. I love the performer who reads Martin's chapters, but the performer who reads Caitlin's chapters has a high, nasally voice that drives me crazy. I finally stopped mid-way and finished reading the book, which is an excellent story of two pen pals from completely different worlds. Full of hope and inspiration, I'd recommend this book to anyone from middle school to adult - especially anyone who lives in an insular, affluent culture.

d
darladoodles
Jan 28, 2017

The story of Martin and Caitlin is such an amazing one and the way it is told through their actual letters and accompanying prose is a recipe for understanding. Through this combination we see how Martin's life is so different from Caitlin's. It brings tears to the eyes to think about what a huge difference one letter made in the life of a family in Zimbabwe.

This is a wonderful book for tweens and early teens to pick up and learn more about Africa and see how a girl their age made such an impact with babysitting money (to start).

I heartily recommend this book to adults as well. We can all learn something about love and generosity from this delightful story.

AL_KATI Oct 21, 2016

This book will make you feel gratitude in so many ways and really make you appreciate what you have.

j
Jane_Sm
May 13, 2016

What a delightful book! I read it while on vacation, then my husband got bored, picked it up out of curiosity, and didn’t stop reading till 3 a.m. Four thumbs up from us old-timers!

LPL_GraceM May 08, 2016

The story of I Will Always Write Back overwhelms you with admiration and joy. A 7th grade Pennsylvanian middle/upper class (Caitlin) girl gets a pen pal (Martin) in Zimbabwe. Martin turns out to be a very poor and smart young man. The two promise to continue to write no matter what goes on in their lives. The disparity in their lives is what brings them together. They think of each other as siblings and their relationship grows to include their families and they begin to help each other in ways that are heartwarming.

This book is a testament to the strength of true friendship and love, and serves as proof for the inherent goodness of humanity regardless of status or wealth. It discusses that hope can light a path through the darkness into the light - light that is happiness, fulfillment, everything you dreamed it would be and more.

s
storygyrl
Feb 28, 2016

I read this 400 pg book in one sitting! I loved learning how the pen pal friendship grew between a white suburban American teen and a black Zimbabwean teen from a slum. It changed both their lives in big ways. Like Caitlin, I was shocked that only US$20 was enough to pay Martin's high school fees for one term, something she could easily earn from an evening of babysitting but an amount that was impossible for him to earn.

JCLJaneM Feb 26, 2016

There are many books that I enjoy reading, but very few blow me away. This one did. It's a true story about an American girl who chooses a pen pal boy from Zimbabwe. They learn that their lives are as different as night and day, but the support and hope they give one another over the next six years is awe inspiring. Their lives and their families' lives are forever changed because of the compassion, commitment, and determination that they showed. Liz Welch did an excellent job in putting their stories together and creating a format that is far more than just the letters.

I believe this book has the power to change the lives of its readers and would make for great discussion in book groups, both young adult and adult.

j
jeff21
Feb 03, 2016

best book ever!!!!!!!!!!

vpl_childrens Dec 08, 2015

This is a non-fiction account of the amazing events set off by a teacher’s assignment to write a letter to a student in a foreign country. I Will Always Write Back shows the power of small acts to change lives.

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black_rabbit_207
Mar 19, 2017

black_rabbit_207 thinks this title is suitable for All Ages

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