Refugee Week 2020 starts next week with a rich programme of interesting events and fun workshops. Ways to get involved are by joining some of their events throughout the week or performing one of their Simple Acts like ‘Watch a Film’ or ‘Read a Book about Exile.’
The IMIX team came up with a few book suggestion for Refugee Week as an opportunity to explore stories of travel, exile, and personal growth. We hope you enjoy reading them!
1. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Americanah is the story of Ifemelu’s migration by choice from Nigeria’s military dictatorship. Arriving in the US as a student, Ifemelu has to face for the first time in her life racism and discrimination. When her teenage love tries to help her, she ends up plunging into a dangerous, undocumented life in London.
Matteo’s choice: ‘It has incredible insights on adapting to a new culture. It offers the perspective of an African woman on her experiences navigating life in America and Europe.’
2. Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
Brooklyn follows the story of a young woman called Rose in the 1950s who leaves her home in rural Ireland to find work in New York. There, Rose also finds love, friendship, excitement, and her place in the wider world beyond the confines of her family’s limited expectations. But when her sister falls ill, she is forced to come back home and is quickly re-absorbed into the strict confines and expectations of her village. Here comes the dilemma of whether to stay or pursue her freedom and dreams in Brooklyn.
Denise’s choice: ‘Beautifully written, I found it incredibly moving. It follows the journey of so many Irish who left their families because they had to. Including my mum and my relatives who all left home because to stay in poverty-stricken Ireland was not an option. A brilliant, poetic homage to the realities and romance of immigration.’
3. King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild
King Leopold’s Ghost explores the exploitation of the Congo Free State by King Leopold II of Belgium in the late nineteenth century, presented by him as great humanitarian action. It’s a fundamental award-winning history book which brought up a largely untold story and succeeded in increasing public awareness of the large-scale atrocities committed during the Belgian colonisation.
Emma’s choice: ‘I‘d like to add a book about understanding slavery during Refugee Week. This is the most striking I’ve ever read on the topic. It makes me shudder even when mentioning it.’
4. From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan
Shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award in 2018, From a Low and Quiet Sea tells the story of three men with a tormented past searching for some version of home. From Syria’s civil war to the reality of Irish small town, their paths will come together in the most unexpected ways.
Emily’s choice: ‘It is a beautiful book about searching for a sense of home, belonging, and peace with one of the stories being that of a Syrian refugee.’
5. Gate of the Sun by Elias Khoury
Gate of the Sun is set in the aftermath of the Shatila and Sabra refugee camp massacres in 1982. Khoury wrote it as ‘an epic of the Palestinian people’ and he weaves together tales of pain, struggle and resistance he gathered from refugee camps over the course of many years to tell the larger story of Palestinian history starting with the Nakba in 1948.
Anna’s choice: ‘I love this book because it is so beautifully written and humanizing.’
6. No Friend but the Mountains by Behrouz Boochani
In No Friend but the Mountains Behrouz Boochani, amongst other things, documents his biographical journey escaping the regime in Iran to finding himself plunged into horrors of detention on Manus Island when he sought asylum in Australia. The book was written in almost five years by typing passages into a mobile phone during his detention.
Niall’s choice:‘It provides a powerful, first-person testimony to the reality of a situation that in the wider public discourse often only boils down to statistics, figures and dehumanising language.’
7. In the Sea There are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda
In the Sea There are Crocodiles it’s a non-fictional novel based on Enaiatollah true life experience. At the age of ten, he fled Taliban Afghanistan alone, attempting to find a safe place to live. The book tells his incredible journey to Italy through several countries like Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and Greece.
Gaia’s choice: ‘I was very young when I read this book for the first time and can still remember how it impressed me. It made it very easy and natural to empathise with the main character. I think it’s a powerful read for all ages that offers a human and intimate perspective on the complex issue of migration flows in the Mediterranean.’
8. ‘What is the What’ by Dave Eggers
What is What is a novel based on extensive interviews which Eggers did with a Sudanese refugee. He was one of the ‘lost boys and girls’ who walked the epic distance from rural Sudan at the height of the civil war to a refugee camp in Ethiopia. The book is split between this journey and his experiences of years living in the refugee camp and his time as a refugee in America.
Katherine’s choice: ‘In many ways it changed my life and view of the world. It made me realise that anyone sat next to me on the bus could have been through the extraordinary experiences of the protagonist and that their stories needed to be heard and listened to.’