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Seven Excellent Books to Read this Refugee Week

Refugee Week is Australia’s peak annual activity to inform the public about refugees and celebrate positive contributions made by refugees to Australian society. Refugee Week is a unique opportunity for us all to experience and celebrate the rich diversity of refugee communities through theatre, music, dance, film and other events which take place all over Australia. It’s also a time for us to reflect and learn more about the refugee experience, and we can do this through reading books, and sharing stories with our children. Here is a book list of excellent titles to read this Refugee Week.

No Friend But the Mountains by Behrouz Boochani

Where have I come from? From the land of rivers, the land of waterfalls, the land of ancient chants, the land of mountains…  Since 2013, Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani has been held in the Manus Island offshore processing centre. People would run to the mountains to escape the warplanes and found asylum within their chestnut forests…
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. Do Kurds have any friends other than the mountains?

When Elephants Fight by Majok Tulba

A haunting coming-of-age novel from one of the Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Novelists of the Year (2013), author of the acclaimed Beneath the Darkening Sky.

In the South Sudanese village of Pacong, Juba is young and old at the same time. Forced to grow up quickly in the civil war, he is nonetheless fun-loving as well as smart. But his little world cannot deflect the conflict raging around it and soon he must flee the life he loves. Ahead lies a long trek to a refugee camp, a journey arduous and fraught. When at last it ends, Juba comes to wonder if there’s any such thing as safe haven in his country. Yet life in the camp is not all bad. There can be intense joy amid the deprivation, there are angels as well as demons.

Poised part way between heaven and hell, When Elephants Fight draws a horrifying picture of what humanity can do to itself, but Juba’s is a story of transcendence and resilience, even exultation.

We Are Displaced by Malala Yousafzai

Nobel Peace Prize winner and bestselling author Malala Yousafzai introduces some of the faces behind the statistics and news stories we read or hear every day about the millions of people displaced worldwide.

In a time of immigration crises, war, and border conflicts, We Are Displaced is an important reminder from one of the world’s most prominent young activists that every single one of the 68.5 million currently displaced is a person – often a young person – with hopes and dreams, and that everyone deserves universal human rights and a safe home.

Refugees by David Miller

Two wild ducks become refugees when their swamp is drained. Their journey in search of a new place to live exposes them to danger, rejection and violence before they are given a new home. This book was shortlisted for the CBCA Picture Book of the Year 2005.

The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do

Anh Do nearly didn’t make it to Australia. His entire family came close to losing their lives on the sea as they escaped from war-torn Vietnam in an overcrowded boat. But nothing – not murderous pirates, nor the imminent threat of death by hunger, disease or dehydration as they drifted for days – could quench their desire to make a better life in the country they had dreamed about.

Songbird by Ingrid Laguna

Jamila has left her friends, her school and her home in Iraq, and now she has a new home. It’s safe in Australia, but Jamila is finding it hard to settle in. She misses her best friend and worries for her dad’s safety back in Iraq. It’s hard to speak and write in English all day. And Jamila has a secret she wants to keep hidden. When she joins the choir, Jamila begins to feel happy. Singing helps take her worries away. And singing will help her find her place in her new life, a place where she can shine. Songbird is a tender story about belonging, about the importance of friendship and asking for help, and about the parts of our lives we keep concealed.

The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

Subhi is a refugee. Born in an Australian permanent detention centre after his mother fled the violence of a distant homeland, life behind the fences is all he has ever known. But as he grows, his imagination gets bigger too, until it is bursting at the limits of his world. The Night Sea brings him gifts, the faraway whales sing to him, and the birds tell their stories.
The most vivid story of all, however, is the one that arrives one night in the form of Jimmie, a scruffy, impatient girl who appears from the other side of the wires, and brings a notebook written by the mother she lost. Unable to read it, she relies on Subhi to unravel her own family’s love songs and tragedies.

Subhi and Jimmie might both find a way to freedom, as their tales unfold. But not until each of them has been braver than ever before.

 

Refugee Week, June 16-22, is Australia’s peak annual activity to inform the public about refugees and celebrate positive contributions made by refugees to Australian society. Learn more about Refugee Week here.


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