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:
A 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.
The 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.
The 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.
A 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.