Memoirs of Refugees in Recognition of World Refugee Day

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
                           —“Home” by Warsan Shire

World Refugee Day is June 20. According to the United Nations every minute 20 people leave everything behind to escape war, persecution or terror. For anyone who is trying to comprehend what it feels like to be driven from your home, books written by or about refugees are a good first step toward understanding. Here are a few of their stories:

alongwaygoneA Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah – Ishmael Beah was born in Sierra Leone, and when he was twelve, his village was attacked by rebels. When he fled he was separated from his family. Beah wandered through the war-filled country before being picked up by the government army and forced to join an army unit.

 

thebestwecoulddoThe Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui – This graphic novel memoir documents the story of Thi Bui’s family’s escape from South Vietnam in the 1970s. Bui describes the difficulties her family faced as refugees and the hardships they overcame as they built a new life for their family.

 

thegirlwhoescapedisisThe Girl Who Escaped ISIS by Farida Khalaf – Farida Khalaf was 19 years old and living a normal, sheltered life in northern Iraq during the summer of 2014 when her village was attacked by ISIS. All of the men in her town were killed and the women were taken into slavery. Khalaf was sold into the homes of ISIS soldiers and is then brought to an ISIS training camp. She plots a dangerous escape for her and five other girls. This is her harrowing account.

 

hopemorepowerfulA Hope More Powerful Than the Sea by Melissa Fleming – This book chronicles the life of Doaa, a Syrian girl whose life was dramatically altered in 2011 by the onset of her country’s brutal civil war. Doaa and her fiance, Bassem, decide to flee to Europe to seek safety and an education, but just days after setting sail on a smuggler’s rickety fishing vessel along with more than five hundred other refugees, their boat is attacked and begins to sink. This is when Doaa’s struggle for survival really begins.

Books for Children

The Journey by Francesca Sanna – This picture book depicts the decisions made as a family leaves their home and everything they know in order to escape the tragedy brought by war. Best for ages 6 and up.

Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams & Khadra Mohammed – Relief workers bring used clothing to a refugee camp in Pakistan, and people grab whatever they can. Ten-year-old Lina is excited when she finds a sandal that fits her foot perfectly, until she sees that another girl has the matching shoe. But soon Lina and Feroza meet and decide that it is better to share the sandals than for each to wear only one. Best for ages 7 and up.

Lost and Found Cat by Doug Kuntz & Amy Shrodes – When an Iraqi family is forced to flee their home, they carry their beloved cat with them from Iraq to Greece, keeping their secret passenger hidden away in this true story. But during the crowded boat crossing to Greece, his carrier breaks and the frightened cat runs away. The family is devastated, but must continue their journey. However, the cat is found and a worldwide community comes together to spread the word on the Internet and reunite them. Best for ages 4 and up.

Vote for Your Favorite Books

 

It’s time to vote for your favorite books! And right now you can vote with the Library of Virginia and PBS.

In 1997, the Library of Virginia established its annual Literary Awards program to honor Virginia writers and acknowledge their literary contributions to our state.

Finalists for the People’s Choice Awards are selected from the books nominated for the annual Library of Virginia Literary Awards. The People’s Choice winners are chosen by readers through a secure online voting portal on the Library’s website (vote here). Voting started June 1 and ends July 15. If you don’t want to vote online, you can also find paper ballots at your local library branch.

The 2017 winners for the People’s Choice Awards were The Stargazer’s Sister by Carrie Brown for the fiction category and Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly for the nonfiction category.

Your second opportunity to vote is with the Great American Read by PBS (vote here or at your local library branch).

The Great American Read is an eight-part television series that examines and celebrates the power of reading, as told through America’s 100 best-loved novels. These novels were chosen in a national survey. The books range from classics to contemporary fiction and include children’s, young adult, and adult titles. Only fiction books were included in the survey to choose the 100 books, and each author was limited to one title on the list.

The television series will feature entertaining and interesting documentary segments, including testimonials from celebrities, authors, notable Americans, and book lovers from across the country. The full series of the Great American Read launches on September 11, 2018 and you can vote until October 18, 2018. You’re also allowed to vote once a day!

“The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.”

fahrenheit451coverBooks on Tap read Fahrenheit 451  by Justin Torres at Champion Brewery on June 7.  The group votes on the titles we read each period and this was our “classic” selection. Many of us had read it in high school or had watched the 1966 film adaptation (none of us has seen the newest HBO version) and recalled the basic outline: in the near future fireman Guy Montag burns books because they are dangerous, meets a young woman, rethinks society and his role in it and joins a band of outcasts determined to memorize and preserve literature as the government fakes his assassination. Throughout he is surrounded by citizens who use entertainment and drugs to numb themselves, making it easy for a political/military elite to wage a war that seems to destroy the cities in the end.

The group doesn’t read many sci-fi titles and this one was within our comfort zone. The wall-to-wall screens and omnipresent earbuds presaged today’s obsession with Facebook, Twitter, Virtual Reality and fandoms. The mechanical dog functions like today’s drones, complete with the paranoia of being singled out for constant monitoring and crime-fighting-through-DNA. Similarly, Montag’s wife Mildred is repeatedly overdosing and being brought back with little fanfare and with seemingly no harm. Not only was this a way for her to numb herself against the monotony of her life and to distract her and the rest of the population from the war, it also reminded 2018 readers of the current opioid epidemic.

We were most interested in Montag’s boss, Chief Beatty. He seems conflicted – he’s read and hidden books but daily burns them and those who hide them. It was unclear if he was currently reading books or had memorized some and was now just hoarding them as a display of power. Some of us posited that Beatty committed suicide by provoking Montag. We then considered Montag’s young friend, Clarisse. She is the one who exposes Montag to an alternative way of living, where people discuss ideas and sit on porches to meet with neighbors. Not only is she one of the few people to talk to Montag for any length of time, she is one of the few woman with a backstory.

Bradbury’s coda disappointed us. He claims that writers are splintering into ethnic, social and racial divisions but until recently sci-fi was notoriously non-diverse. It was hard to square this novel, a call to arms to preserve intellectual freedom, with his restrictive view of how writing should be presented.

What struck us most about the novel in 2018 was need for deep, sustained reading for pleasure as opposed to purpose. It is an antidote to our plugged in society, getting us out of our bubbles and exercising our attention spans. That led us to list the books that hooked us on reading as children and young adults:

Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Roald Dahl‘s works
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Cherry Ames series
Bobbsey Twins by Laura Lee Hope

More Information:
About the author and book
Other works

Adaptations:
Play
Short stories as origin
1966 Movie
2018 Movie

Read Alikes:
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
The Stand by Stephen King
A Gift Upon the Shore by M.K. Wren
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Mr. Burns, a Post-electric Play by Anne Washburn
This is America a music video by recording artist Childish Gambino

Books on Tap Information:

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