A Remarkable Memoir: Read Our Review of Unknown by Akuch Kuol Anyieth

A Remarkable Memoir: Read Our Review of Unknown by Akuch Kuol Anyieth

A moving, confronting and ultimately uplifting story about a young girl’s escape, with her family, from war-torn South Sudan to Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, and then to Australia.

In 1996, when Akuch Kuol Anyieth is five, her mother flees to Kakuma with her children, intent on finding safety and freedom for her family, while her husband stays behind in South Sudan to fight in the civil war. The family spends nine years in the camp, eking out an existence amidst famine, disease, unbearable heat and chronic violence. Despite their suffering, Akuch never loses hope or her sense of humour. She’s a bright student who loves learning and does well at the local school.

In 2005, the family is finally granted a family humanitarian visa to Australia. They are on the way to paradise. But the reality of their new lives in Melbourne is complex. As Akuch’s brother’s behaviour spirals out of control, the family find themselves isolated and struggling with various forms of racism.

But Akuch is determined. She learns English from scratch, excels in her educational achievements, and tries to live the life of a regular teenager. Above all, she does everything she can to help her family emerge from the bonds of violence.

Akuch Kuol Anyieth’s Unknown is a remarkable memoir. It’s a homage to the strength of her mother in protecting her family against all the odds, a story of sadness, anger, humour, determination, survival and love.

This was a one-sitting read for me. I was utterly transfixed by Akuch’s story, and her delivery of it in this powerful, interesting and inspiring memoir. What a life. What an incredible woman to give voice to the refugee experience. Her capacity to relive this on the page, in simple, polished prose, and with such heart and humour is quite extraordinary. Akuch writes, “I am South Sudanese by birth, Kenyan by migration and life experience, and Australian by migration and citizenship. I spent my childhood and some of my teenage years in Kakuma, a refugee camp in remote, arid, north-west Kenya, near the border with South Sudan. My childhood memories of the camp include hunger and thirst, dust storms, bites from scorpions, outbreaks of malaria and cholera – and violence.”

It’s this violence that makes this such a devastating read. The first half of the book is life before Australia, where the violence Akuch experiences is multilayered: war, tribal battles in refugee camps, family violence and even the bullying she was subjected to at school (a school set up by Angelina Jolie). But then, Australia doesn’t offer them the dream of respite from their previous life that they had expected.

Reading about their arrival in Melbourne is both riveting and upsetting. You’re heavily invested in Akuch and her family by this time, and the chaos that ensues, particularly due to her brother known as Dragon, and the racism they must endure makes for extremely uncomfortable reading.

Ultimately though, Akuch shines. Her trauma is evident, but so is her resilience, her fierce intelligence and her desire to make a difference. Already doing that as a graduate researcher in crime, justice and legal studies, this book too will make an impact on understanding the refugee experience in this country. Unknown is perfect for high school curriculums – it’s a must-read for all Australians.

Buy a copy of Unknown here.

Acknowledgment of Cultural Fund support

Better Reading acknowledges the support provided by Copyright Agency for us to promote Unknown.

Reviews

Your Preview Verdict: Unknown by Akuch Kuol Anyieth

Review | Preview

27 June 2022

Your Preview Verdict: Unknown by Akuch Kuol Anyieth

    A Tale of Determination and Love: Read an Extract from Unknown by Akuch Kuol Anyieth

    Review | Extract

    5 May 2022

    A Tale of Determination and Love: Read an Extract from Unknown by Akuch Kuol Anyieth

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        Publisher details

        Unknown: A Refugee's Story
        Author
        Akuch Kuol Anyieth
        Publisher
        Text Publishing
        Genre
        Non Fiction
        Released
        03 May, 2022
        ISBN
        9781922458476

        Synopsis

        A moving, confronting and ultimately uplifting story about a young girl’s escape, with her family, from war-torn South Sudan to Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, and then to Australia.

        In 1996, when Akuch Kuol Anyieth is five, her mother flees to Kakuma with her children, intent on finding safety and freedom for her family, while her husband stays behind in South Sudan to fight in the civil war. The family spends nine years in the camp, eking out an existence amidst famine, disease, unbearable heat, and chronic violence. Despite their suffering, Akuch never loses hope or her sense of humour. She’s a bright student who loves learning and does well at the local school.

        In 2005, the family is finally granted a family humanitarian visa to Australia. They are on the way to paradise. But the reality of their new lives in Melbourne is complex. As Akuch’s brother’s behaviour spirals out of control, the family find themselves isolated and struggling with various forms of racism.

        But Akuch is determined. She learns English from scratch, excels in her educational achievements, and tries to live the life of a regular teenager. Above all she does everything she can to help her family emerge from the bonds of violence.

        Akuch Kuol Anyieth’s Unknown is a remarkable memoir. It’s a homage to the strength of her mother in protecting her family against all the odds, a story of sadness, anger, humour, determination, survival and love.
        Akuch Kuol Anyieth
        About the author

        Akuch Kuol Anyieth

        Akuch Kuol Anyieth is a graduate researcher in crime, justice and legal studies. Her research engages with masculinity and domestic violence, examining customary law, pre- and post-migration experiences of South Sudanese families and how they adapt to the western rule of law in the diaspora. She is a frequent contributor to discussions about her community. Her book South Sudanese Manhood and Family Crisis in the Diaspora was published in February 2021. She lives in Melbourne.

        Books by Akuch Kuol Anyieth

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