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.
MEMOIRS & AUTOBIOGRAPHIES
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.
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 Leone, The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Refugee Tales: Vol III
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Boy At The Back of Class by Onjali Q Rau
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.
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.
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.
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: https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/books/