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We’ve curated a range of excellent fiction and non-fiction books for you to read this Refugee Week.

Be sure to snap a photo and share it across social media using the hashtag #RefugeeWeek.


Unknown: A Refugee’s story – Akuch Kuol Anyieth 

Unknown book

This ultimately heart-warming narrative tells the story of a young girl and her family who fled from war-torn South Sudan to the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya and then to Australia. 

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Freedom, Only Freedom: The Prison Writings of Behrouz Boochani 

Behrouz Boochani, Moones Mansoubi (Editor), Omid Tofighian (Editor)

Freedom only freedom book

This book contains the collected writings of Behrouz, who experienced over six years of imprisonment in Australia’s offshore detention centre. His writings are combined with essays from migrant, refugee rights, politics, and literature experts. This book offers a powerful, and thought-provoking account of not only one writer’s distressing experience and inspirational resiliency, but also the plight and experiences of detained migrants across the world. 

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The Boy Who Never Gave Up: A Refugee’s Epic Journey to Triumph – Dr Emmanuel Taban with Andrew Crofts

The Boy Who Never Gave Up Book

A life story of Dr Emmanuel Taban who escaped the war-torn Sudan and had faced challenges in different African countries before coming to South Africa. Taban refused to give up despite the struggles and later became a successful pulmonologist. In 2020, he was a pioneer in the ICU’s care of Covid-19 patients. 

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Escape from Manus – Jaivet Ealom

Escape from Manus

The compelling story of one man’s successful escape from Manus Island. A brave and true story of the only person who managed to escape from Australia’s infamous offshore detention facility on Manus Island. 

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The Pride of an African Migrant

Pride of an African Migrant

Where is the human in migration? In an age of immigration as political posturing and propaganda, Massocki Ma Massocki presents a collage of dreams, journeys, tears, wills… even death. This book is an intimate retelling of lives and stories that strips migrants of convenient agenda-driven labels, baring them stark to the reader.

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Rising Heart

Rising Heart

Aminata Conteh-Biger was one of the first Sierra-Leonean women to be granted refugee status to Australia (in 2000) after being kidnapped during the violent 11-year civil war in Sierra Leone. Her story has been featured on SBS Dateline in the 2017 doco Daughter of Sierra LeoneThe Sunday Project and in her 2020 memoir, Rising Heart (Pan Macmillan). 

In mid-2022, Aminata addressed The National Press Club in Canberra – one of few African Australians to ever do so. She is also the founder and CEO of the Aminata Maternal Foundation – a charity which aims to stop the horrific maternal health crisis of her home country. 

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First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers by Loung Ung

First They Killed My Father

One of seven children of a high-ranking government official, Loung Ung lived a privileged life in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh until the age of five. Then, in April 1975, Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge army stormed into the city, forcing Ung’s family to flee and, eventually, to disperse. Loung was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans, her siblings were sent to labor camps, and those who survived the horrors would not be reunited until the Khmer Rouge was destroyed.

Harrowing yet hopeful, Loung’s powerful story is an unforgettable account of a family shaken and shattered, yet miraculously sustained by courage and love in the face of unspeakable brutality.

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No Friend but the Mountains by Behrouz Boochani

No Friend but the Mountains

In 2013, Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani was illegally detained on Manus Island. 

This book is the result. Laboriously tapped out on a mobile phone and translated from the Farsi. It is a voice of witness, an act of survival. A lyric first-hand account. A cry of resistance. A vivid portrait through five years of incarceration and exile.

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The Ungrateful Refugee by Dina Nayeri

The Ungrateful Refugee 1

Aged eight, Dina Nayeri fled Iran along with her mother and brother, and lived in the crumbling shell of an Italian hotel-turned-refugee camp. Eventually she was granted asylum in America.

Now, Nayeri weaves together her own vivid story with those of other asylum seekers in recent years. In these pages, women gather to prepare the noodles that remind them of home, a closeted queer man tries to make his case truthfully as he seeks asylum and a translator attempts to help new arrivals present their stories to officials.

Surprising and provocative, The Ungrateful Refugee recalibrates the conversation around the refugee experience. Here are the real human stories of what it is like to be forced to flee your home, and to journey across borders in the hope of starting afresh.

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City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World’s Largest Refugee Camp by Ben Rawlence

City of Thorns

To the charity workers, Dadaab refugee camp is a humanitarian crisis; to the Kenyan government, it is a ‘nursery for terrorists’; to the western media, it is a dangerous no-go area; but to its half a million residents, it is their last resort.

In City of Thorns, Rawlence interweaves the stories of nine individuals to show what life is like in the camp and to sketch the wider political forces that keep the refugees trapped there. Rawlence combines intimate storytelling with broad socio-political investigative journalism.

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Refugee Tales: Vol III

Refugee Tales

With nationalism and the far right on the rise across Europe and North America, there has never been a more important moment to face up to what we, in Britain, are doing to those who seek sanctuary. Still the UK detains people indefinitely under immigration rules. Bail hearings go unrecorded, people are picked up without notice, individuals feel abandoned in detention centres with no way of knowing when they will be released.

In Refugee Tales III we read the stories of people who have been through this process, many of whom have yet to see their cases resolved and who live in fear that at any moment they might be detained again. Poets, novelists and writers have once again collaborated with people who have experienced detention, their tales appearing alongside first-hand accounts by people who themselves have been detained. What we hear in these stories are the realities of the hostile environment, the human costs of a system that disregards rights, that denies freedoms and suspends lives.

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The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Displaced

In January 2017, Donald Trump signed an executive order stopping entry to the United States from seven predominantly Muslim countries and dramatically cutting the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the United States each year. The American people spoke up, with protests, marches, donations, and lawsuits that quickly overturned the order. But the refugee caps remained.
In The Displaced, Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Viet Thanh Nguyen, himself a refugee, brings together a host of prominent refugee writers to explore and illuminate the refugee experience. Featuring original essays by a collection of writers from around the world, The Displaced is an indictment of closing our doors, and a powerful look at what it means to be forced to leave home and find a place of refuge.

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Still Alive – Safdar Ahmed

Still Alive book

This graphic novel tells the stories of people Safdar Ahmed met while teaching art in an immigration detention facility in Villawood, Sydney. Still Alive is a compelling visual narrative that combines journalism, autobiography and history together to reveal the untold experiences of refugees in Australia. 

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Crossing by Patjim Statvoci


In the devastation of post-Communist Albania, inseparable young friends Bujar and Agim feel trapped: Bujar struggling to come to terms with the loss of his father, Agim facing dangerous realizations about his sexuality and his feelings for Bujar. When shame, guilt, and the ruins of authoritarianism push Bujar and Agim to leave everything behind and flee to Italy, the unfamiliar life of an immigrant and asylum seeker sets Bujar on a path of reinvention.

He follows an impulse to remake himself–as a man or woman of infinite nationalities and pasts–the burning desire to be seen and heard spurring a desperate search for a different existence to be seized at any cost. But Bujar’s quest for identity and belonging is haunted by the mystery of what happened to Agim–his one, true beloved, who somehow got lost along the way.

Like Statovci’s acclaimed debut, My Cat Yugoslavia, Crossing is a powerful and symbolic novel of both unending war and unattainable love, but most of all, of the lies that give stories a singular power.

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The Boat People by Sharon Bala

The Boat People 1

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.

Told through the alternating perspectives of Mahindan; his lawyer, Priya, a second-generation Sri Lankan Canadian who reluctantly represents the refugees; and Grace, a third-generation Japanese Canadian adjudicator who must decide Mahindan’s fate as evidence mounts against him, The Boat People is a spellbinding and timely novel that provokes a deeply compassionate lens through which to view the current refugee crisis.

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No Words by Maryam Master

No Words high res cover

Hero doesn’t feel like a hero, but sometimes she feels as if the universe is asking her to be one.When Aria, a mysterious boy who never EVER speaks, starts at school and is picked on, Hero and her bestie Jaz feel compelled to help. But they’re far too chicken to actually do anything heroic, so they befriend Aria and try to uncover the truth about him.What happened to his voice?Where did he come from?What are those three dents on his middle finger?This is the story of a 12-year-old refugee who’s trying to establish a new life in Australia, grapple with his past and, most importantly, find his voice.‘Cos, boy, does he have a story to tell.

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Boy 87 by Ele Fountain

Boy 87

Shif is just an ordinary schoolboy who loves chess and playing with his best friend. But, one day, he is forced to leave home to avoid conscription into the army. He embarks on an epic journey, in which he encounters dangers and cruelties – and great acts of human kindness – as he bravely makes his way to a future he can only imagine.

Told in the powerful first person, this startling debut novel will encourage understanding and empathy in young readers, and allow the news headlines of the day to resonate with the humanity involved in creating them.

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What is a Refugee? – Elise Gravel 

What is a Refugee book

Elise Gravel, author and artist of this clear, visual, and powerful picture book for young children, examines what it means to be a refugee. This book is the ideal resource to introduce this topic to children.

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The Paper Boat: A Refugee story – Thao Lam

The Paper Boat book

In The Paper Boat, Thao’s renowned collage artwork depicts the wordless tale of one family’s journey from Vietnam, a voyage entwined with an ant colony’s parallel story. 

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Spectacularly Beautiful: A Refugee’s Story – Lisa Lucas, Laurie Stein (Illustrator)

Spectacularly Beautiful book

Thanks to a wonderful teacher, a young immigrant living in America discovers how to perceive herself as beautiful despite the emotional and physical wounds from her troubled homeland. 

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Migrants – Isa Watanabe

Migrants book

The journey of a group of animals who leave behind a leafless forest is described in this book through a series of incredibly moving photos. It tells the tale of massive and exceptional migration, a voyage that requires across international boundaries, making sacrifices, and leaving behind loved ones. 

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The Boy At The Back of Class by Onjali Q Rau

The Boy at the Back of the Class

Told with humor and heart, ‘THE BOY AT THE BACK OF THE CLASS’ offers a child’s perspective on the refugee crisis, highlighting the importance of friendship and kindness in a world that doesn’t always make sense.

There used to be an empty chair at the back of my class, but now a new boy called Ahmet is sitting in it.

He’s eight years old (just like me), but he’s very strange. He never talks and never smiles and doesn’t like sweets – not even lemon sherbets, which are my favorite!

But the truth is, Ahmet really isn’t very strange at all. He’s a refugee who’s run away from a War. A real one. With bombs and fires and bullies that hurt people. And the more I find out about him, the more I want to be his friend.

That’s where my best friends Josie, Michael and Tom come in. Because you see, together we’ve come up with a plan.

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Nadine Dreams of Home by Bernard Ashley

Nadine Dreams of Home

Nadine doesn’t like her new life. She doesn’t speak the language, she can’t understand what’s going on, and more than anything, it’s just not home. Especially since her father isn’t here with them in the UK. But it just wasn’t safe in Goma anymore, not with the uprising and the violence of the rebel soldiers. So Nadine tries to find something in her new life that will remind her of the happy memories of Africa.

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Oranges in No Man’s Land by Elizabeth Laird

Oranges in No Mans Land

Oranges in No Man’s Land brings Elizabeth Laird’s emotional and gripping adventure to her next generation of fans.

Since her father left Lebanon to find work and her mother tragically died in a shell attack, ten-year-old Ayesha has been living in the bomb-ravaged city of Beirut with her granny and her two younger brothers. The city has been torn in half by civil war and a desolate, dangerous no man’s land divides the two sides. Only militiamen and tanks dare enter this deadly zone, but when Granny falls desperately ill, Ayesha sets off on a terrifying journey to reach a doctor living in enemy territory.

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The Refugee Council of Australia has compiled a list of fiction and non-fiction books centred around refugees and people seeking asylum. You can check them out here:

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