Excellent Books to Understand the Refugee Experience
The global community is currently in the midst of a refugee crisis unlike anything seen since WWII. Given the ongoing crisis and the prevalence of refugees as part of an ongoing national conversation – and the need for more compassion and empathy than ever – we’ve pulled together novels and memoirs touching on the refugee experience.
In The Girl Who Smiled Beads, Clemantine Wamariya provokes us to look beyond the label of “victim” and recognize the power of the imagination to transcend even the most profound injuries and aftershocks. Devastating yet beautiful, and bracingly original, it is a powerful testament to her commitment to constructing a life on her own terms.
A short, powerful, illustrated book written by beloved novelist Khaled Hosseini in response to the current refugee crisis, Sea Prayer is composed in the form of a letter, from a father to his son, on the eve of their journey. Watching over his sleeping son, the father reflects on the dangerous sea-crossing that lies before them. It is also a vivid portrait of their life in Homs, Syria, before the war, and of that city’s swift transformation from a home into a deadly war zone.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, the Pulitzer Prize winner from Michael Chabon, centers on two cousins: Joe Kavalier, a Czech refugee and artist fleeing Prague, and Sammy Clay, a Brooklyn-born writer. The at-times-rollicking-yet-profound novel follows the meteoric rise Kavalier and Clay in the world of the Golden Age comic book boom. It is at turns surprising, heartfelt, and thrilling.
Abdi Nor Iftin used his language skills to post secret dispatches, which found an audience of worldwide listeners. Eventually, though, Abdi was forced to flee to Kenya. In an amazing stroke of luck, Abdi won entrance to the U.S. in the annual visa lottery, though his route to America did not come easily.
Sweetness in the Belly tells the story of Lilly, orphaned at the age of eight in Morocco after the murder of her British parents. Taken in and raised in a Sufi shrine, Lilly eventually makes her way to Ethiopia before being forced to flee to London as a refugee. It is a poignant examination of an outside search for home.
Mohsin Hamed’s novel of the strife created by the Syrian Civil War is told through the lens of the love affair of young Nadia and Saeed. The pair find one another as their country teeters toward violent conflict and explosive unrest climbs to a terrifying fever pitch, forcing the couple to flee for survival.
One woman’s inspiring true story of an unlikely alliance to stop the atrocities of a warlord, proving that there is no limit to what we can do, even in the face of unspeakable injustice and impossible odds.
When a rusty cargo ship carrying Mahindan and five hundred fellow refugees from Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war reaches Vancouver’s shores, the young father thinks he and his six-year-old son can finally start a new life. Instead, the group is thrown into a detention processing center, with government officials and news headlines speculating that among the “boat people” are members of a separatist militant organization responsible for countless suicide attacks—and that these terrorists now pose a threat to Canada’s national security. As the refugees become subject to heavy interrogation, Mahindan begins to fear that a desperate act taken in Sri Lanka to fund their escape may now jeopardize his and his son’s chance for asylum.
What Is the What is the epic novel based on the life of Valentino Achak Deng who, along with thousands of other children —the so-called Lost Boys—was forced to leave his village in Sudan at the age of seven and trek hundreds of miles by foot, pursued by militias, government bombers, and wild animals, crossing the deserts of three countries to find freedom. When he finally is resettled in the United States, he finds a life full of promise, but also heartache and myriad new challenges. Moving, suspenseful, and unexpectedly funny, What Is the What is an astonishing novel that illuminates the lives of millions through one extraordinary man.
What would you do if, when you were ten, you were left to fend for yourself, and, in order to survive, you had to undertake a harrowing journey all the way from Afghanistan to Italy? In the Sea There Are Crocodiles brilliantly captures Enaiat’s engaging voice and humor, in what is a truly epic story of hope and survival, for readers of all ages.
Mokhtar Alkhanshali is twenty-four and working as a doorman when he discovers the astonishing history of coffee and Yemen’s central place in it. He leaves San Francisco and travels deep into his ancestral homeland to tour terraced farms high in the country’s rugged mountains and meet beleagured but determined farmers. But when war engulfs the country and Saudi bombs rain down, Mokhtar has to find a way out of Yemen without sacrificing his dreams or abandoning his people.