Books are powerful tools. They enhance our minds, deepen our understanding and broaden our perspective of the world around us. Books help us understand stories better, building empathy and understanding – especially when it comes to refugees and displaced people. While refugee stories are in the news, they don’t always tell us the human story behind the situation, and we sometimes miss the important stories and lived realities of those behind the headlines.
This Fall, we are highlighting ten books from incredible authors that will immerse you in stories of those forced to flee. These written works, many written by refugees themselves, bring fresh perspectives of refugees around the world. In a time when 1 out of every 74 people have been forced to flee their home, we hope these books provide new insight into refugees lives and become a valuable addition to your bookshelf.
Salma Makes a Home
By Danny Ramadan
Salma Makes a Home follows the story of a young Syrian, Salma, who has settled with her mother in Vancouver, Canada. Charming, creative Salma takes on big feelings with even bigger ideas as she navigates life in a new country, Syrian identity, family changes and new friendships in this engaging and heartfelt early chapter book series.
What is the What
By Dave Eggers
What is the What recounts the heartbreaking story of Valentino Achak Deng who, with other thousands of unaccompanied children -commonly known as the Lost Boys of Sudan – was forced to flee Sudan’s civil war and walked hundreds of miles by foot at the age of seven until he found safety in Ethiopia and later in Kenya. When he was finally resettled in the United States in 2001, he found new struggles while adjusting to his new life. In this book, Dave Eggers invites the reader to reflect on the challenges behind adopting a new identity, culture and community.
The Girl Who Smiled Beads
By Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil
In this sharp, moving memoir, Clemantine Wamariya and her co-author, Elizabeth Weil, describe Clemantine’s journey after fleeing the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Clemantine and her older sister, Claire, were separated from their parents and spent six years on the run, wandering through seven African countries, suffering illness and living in refugee camps. Devastating yet beautiful, it is a moving testament to the human cost of war.
The Boat People
By Sharon Bala
By the winner of The Journey Prize, and inspired by a real incident, The Boat People is a gripping and morally complex novel about a group of refugees who survive a perilous ocean voyage to reach Canada, only to begin a new challenging journey seeking asylum. The Boat People is a spellbinding and timely novel that provokes a deeply compassionate lens through which to view the situation of many refugees around the world.
By Khaled Hosseini
Sea Prayer is an illustrated novel by Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini inspired by the Syrian refugee crisis and the death of Alan Kurdi. Written in the form of a letter from a father to a son, the novel explores the dangerous journey and reality of millions who fled Syria in the wake of the crisis.
By Kim Thúy
In vignettes that shift back and forth between past and present, Ru tells the story of a young woman forced to leave her Saigon home during the Vietnam War. In spare, luminous prose, Kim Thúy traces the woman’s journey from childhood in an affluent Saigon neighbourhood to youth in a crowded Malaysian refugee camp and then to Quebec, where she struggles to fit in — all aspects of the author’s own life story. In 2012, Ru was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Man Asian Literary Prize. It won the Governor General’s Award for French-language fiction in 2010, and the Prix du Grand Public Salon du livre de Montréal. Ru was the Canada Reads 2015 winner defended by Cameron Bailey.
By Mohsin Hamid
Exit West is a 2017 novel by Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid. It is Hamid’s fourth novel. The main themes of the novel are emigration and refugee problems. The novel, which can be considered fantasy or speculative fiction, is about a young couple, Saeed and Nadia, who live in an unnamed city undergoing civil war and finally have to flee, using a system of magical doors that lead to different locations around the globe.
Night of Power
By Anar Ali
It’s 1998. And Mansoor Visram has lived in Canada for 25 years, ever since dictator Idi Amin expelled South Asians from Uganda. As a refugee with a wife and child, Mansoor has tried his best to recreate the life they once had, but starting over in Canada has been much harder than he expected.
Breaking the Ocean
By Annahid Dashtgard
In Breaking the Ocean, diversity and inclusion specialist Annahid Dashtgard addresses the long-term impacts of exile, immigration, and racism by offering a vulnerable, deeply personal account of her life and work.
We Are Displaced
By Malala Yousafzai
In We are Displaced, Nobel peace prize winner Malala Yousafzai describes her own experiences living in a Pakistan ruled by the Taliban and shares the stories of nine other displaced girls – from countries like Colombia, Syria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – whom Malala has met throughout her journey as an activist for girls education. This powerful book highlights the struggles, hopes and dreams of young girls behind the staggering statistics of forced displacement.