Refugee Week

Books written by and from the perspective of refugees about the experience of emigration are often stories packed with emotion, hardship and triumph that offer fresh and deeply personal perspectives on the world. Highlighting these books during Refugee Week isn’t merely about diversifying the shelves, but about opening our hearts and minds to the perspectives of those fleeing conflict. 

When you pick up a book by a refugee author, you’re stepping into their shoes, experiencing the difficulties of persecution and displacement. Take, for example, “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie or “Mornings in Jenin” by Susan Abulhawa. These books offer deeply personal accounts of the struggle to adapt to new cultures, the pain of leaving one’s homeland and the determination it takes to build a new life. 

In our current political climate, there has never been a more crucial time to highlight these stories. It is everyone’s responsibility to dismantle the myths and stereotypes about refugees. Misinformation and skewed media representation tend to focus on dramatic stories that don’t truly represent the human element and cost of conflict. Personal novels and memoirs remind us that every refugee has a unique journey filled with hope and turmoil. 

Books and perspectives such as these add so much richness to our cultural landscape. Refugee authors bring their unique philosophies and storytelling styles, enriching our own way of thinking. This only benefits our own reading experiences, making them more vibrant and exciting. For the authors themselves, telling their stories in books can be incredibly affirming. It reinforces that their experiences matter, their voices matter. These books spark important conversations about identity, belonging, and multiculturalism. They push us to reflect on how we can be more welcoming and inclusive. 

Understanding the refugee experience is more important now than ever. By giving refugee authors the spotlight, we not only celebrate diversity but also promote empathy and inclusivity. So, this Refugee Week, when you’re on the lookout for a new read, consider picking up a book that tells the story of a refugee’s journey. 

I’d also recommend the below titles…

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Exit West explores the relationship of two young lovers in an unnamed country teetering on the brink of civil war. As unrest grows and familiar streets transform into checkpoints they begin to hear whispers of a way out, mysterious doors that can whisk people away to uncertain futures. A novel of magic realism, identity, and chaos.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong 

Written in letter form from a son to his illiterate mother this novel is a poignant and deeply powerful account of family and identity. At the epicentre of this novel is a family’s heritage during the Vietnam war, delving into the complexities of race, masculinity, arranged marriages and, trauma. 

Girl at War by Sara Nović 

Girl at War details the idyllic life of young Ana Juric in Croatia in 1991. That is, until civil war breaks out across former Yugoslavia. Her once picturesque childhood is transformed in an instant to air raids and sniper fire. Ana escapes to the US in 2001 but as a student in Manhattan she finds she can’t escape her past.

Enter Ghost by Isabella Hammad 

A candid exploration of identity and connection. Following years of living away from her homeland, Sonia returns to Haifa only to find her relationship to Palestine is fragile. Persevering she joins a production of Hamlet on the West Bank but with warring intensifying she soon discovers how many obstacles lie in her wake.

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