Favourite Books about Refugees and Immigrants for Refugee Week

An old leather suitcase

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Refugee Week 

This is Refugee Week so I thought I would take a look at some fiction that explores the experiences of refugees and immigrants.  There are some wonderful books here, not all of them are easy to read for many reasons. After all, how desperate do you need to be to put yourself and your children into the hands of violent criminals, or into a flimsy boat with too many passengers and not enough life belts? Hard as some of these books are to read, there is hope here too and life-affirming stories of kindness and triumph over adversity.  Let’s delve into some of my favourites. 


Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini – A powerful novella in the form of a letter from a father to his son on the eve of their treacherous journey across the English Channel. It deals with his hopes for their future and with their memories of the Syria they were forced to flee. 


The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen – a collection of short stories, written over the space of twenty years that deal with the hopes and dreams of people making life-changing decisions to leave their home country for another.  


Small Island by Andrea Levy – This book deals with the post war experiences of Caribbean ex-service men in Britain. Winner of the Orange Prize, the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize and the Whitbread!  So it’s not just me who thinks it’s a wonderful book.


The Boat People by Sharon Bala – A Sri Lankan man and his young son arrive in Vancouver on a rusty cargo ship with 500 other refugees. They hope to start a new life but must face the terrible obstacles of detention centres and the suspicion that they might be terrorists. A stark and unflinching book. 


The Beekeeper of Aleppo – Christy Lefteri – This book follows Nuri, the beekeeper of the title and his wife Afra who lived a comfortable life in Syria before the war, as they cross Greece and Turkey in a desperate attempt to reach Yorkshire, where Nuri’s cousin is helping fellow refugees by teaching them beekeeping. 


The Arrival by Shaun Tan – a graphic novel told without words about arriving in a strange new land – very powerfully drawn.  


Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi – this book is about a family of Ghanians living in Alabama, a family torn apart by depression, addiction and grief. It’s a great novel about faith, science and love. 


Day After Night by Anita Diamant – After WW2 about 270 people were being held in a camp for illegal immigrants in Israel, and this book tells the stories of some of the women – some who want to forget what has happened to them, some who cannot help but remember. 


These are just a few of my personal favourites about refugees and immigrants.  If you are interested in World Literature, check out our book subscription service where we have a monthly subscription box covering this genre, or you could treat yourself to a World Literature gift box of four specially chosen books.

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