Refugee Week 2020

This year Refugee Week will be running 15-21 June, with the theme ‘imagine’. What is Refugee Week? Well, it’s an annual UK-wide festival, founded in 1998, celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees.
When situations are overwhelming, when life is hard or the old ways of doing something no longer work, then ‘imagine’ is just the thing to do.
And what better way to find inspiration, ideas and comfort, then picking up and reading a book!

We’ve put together a list of 16 books, all of which you can find through the BorrowBox app – our digital library. These eTitles are a mix of fiction and true stories, but what they have in common is that they are all tales of hope and extreme endurance.

It is the obligation of every person born in a safer room
to open the door when someone in danger knocks.

Dina Nayeri, Iranian novelist

Boy 87
by Ele Fountain

Available as eBook
Suitable for ages 10+

Shif is just an ordinary boy who likes chess, maths and racing his best friend home from school. But one day, soldiers with guns come to his door – and he knows that he is no longer safe. Shif is forced to leave his mother and little sister, and embark on a dangerous journey; a journey through imprisonment and escape, new lands and strange voices, and a perilous crossing by land and sea. He will encounter cruelty and kindness; he will become separated from the people he loves. Boy 87 is a gripping, uplifting tale of one boy’s struggle for survival; it echoes the story of young people all over the world today. Ele Fountain worked as an Editor in children’s publishing, where she was responsible for launching and nurturing the careers of many prize-winning and best-selling authors including Angie Sage, Philip Reeve and Sarah Crossan. She lived in Addis Ababa for several years, where she was inspired to write Boy 87, her debut novel. Ele now lives in what she describes as a ‘not quite falling down house’ in Hampshire with her husband and two young daughters.

The Unforgotten Coat
by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Available as eBook
Suitable for ages 10+

A story of two refugee brothers from Mongolia who are determined to fit in with their Liverpool schoolmates

No Ballet Shoes in Syria
by Catherine Bruton

Available as eBook
Suitable for ages 10+

When Aya stumbles across a local ballet class, the formidable dance teacher spots her exceptional talent and believes that Aya has the potential to earn a prestigious ballet scholarship. But at the same time, Aya and her family must fight to be allowed to remain in the country, to make a home for themselves, and to find Aya’s father – separated from the rest of the family during the journey from Syria. With beautiful, captivating writing, wonderfully authentic ballet detail, and an important message championing the rights of refugees, this is classic storytelling – filled with warmth, hope and humanity.

A House without Walls
by Elizabeth Laird

Available as eBook
Suitable for ages 10+

Thirteen-year-old Safiya and her family have been driven out of Syria by civil war. Safiya knows how lucky she is – lucky not to be living in a refugee camp, lucky to be alive. But it’s hard to feel grateful when she’s forced to look after her father and brother rather than go back to school, and now that she’s lost her home, she’s lonelier than ever. As they struggle to rebuild their lives, Safiya realizes that her family has always been incomplete and with her own future in the balance, it’s time to uncover the secrets that war has kept buried.

The Read Pencil
by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Available as eAudiobook
Suitable for ages 10+

Finally, Amira is twelve. Old enough to wear a toob, old enough for new responsibilities. And maybe old enough to go to school in Nyala– Amira’s one true dream. But life in her peaceful Sudanese village is shattered when the Janjaweed arrive. The terrifying attackers ravage the town and unleash unspeakable horrors. After she loses nearly everything, Amira needs to dig deep within herself to find the strength to make the long journey– on foot– to safety at a refugee camp. Her days are tough at the camp, until the gift of a simple red pencil opens her mind– and all kinds of possibilities. New York Times bestselling and Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Andrea Davis Pinkney’s powerful verse and Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist Shane W. Evans’s breathtaking illustrations combine to tell an inspiring tale of one girl’s triumph against all odds.

The fox girl and the white gazelle
by Victoria Williamson

Available as eBook
Suitable for ages 10+

Reema runs to remember the life she left behind in Syria. Caylin runs to find what she’s lost. Under the grey Glasgow skies, twelve-year-old refugee Reema is struggling to find her place in a new country, with a new language and without her brother. But she isn’t the only one feeling lost. Her Glasgwegian neighbour Caylin is lonely and lashing out. When they discover an injured fox and her cubs hiding on their estate, the girls form a wary friendship. And they are more alike than they could have imagined: they both love to run. As Reema and Caylin learn to believe again, in themselves and in others, they find friendship, freedom and the discovery that home isn’t a place, it’s the people you love.

Ink knows no Borders

Available as eBook
Suitable for ages 14+

With authenticity, integrity, and insight, this collection of poems addresses the many issues confronting first- and second- generation young adult immigrants and refugees, such as cultural and language differences, homesickness, social exclusion, human rights, racism, stereotyping, and questions of identity. Poems by Elizabeth Acevedo, Erika L. Sánchez, Samira Ahmed, Chen Chen, Ocean Vuong, Fatimah Asghar, Carlos Andrés Gómez, Bao Phi, Kaveh Akbar, Hala Alyan, and Ada Limón, among others, encourage readers to honor their roots as well as explore new paths, offering empathy and hope for those who are struggling to overcome discrimination. Many of the struggles immigrant and refugee teens face head-on are also experienced by young people everywhere as they contend with isolation, self-doubt, confusion, and emotional dislocation. Ink Knows No Borders is the first book of its kind and features 65 poems and a foreword by poet Javier Zamora, who crossed the border, unaccompanied, at the age of nine, and an afterword by Emtithal Mahmoud, World Poetry Slam Champion and Honorary Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. Brief biographies of the poets are included, as well. It’s a hopeful, beautiful, and meaningful book for any reader.

No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.

Warsan Shire, British Author

In the Sea there are crocodiles
by Fabio Geda

Available as eBook and eAudiobook
Adult Fiction

The next day he wakes up to find she isn’t there. They have fled their village in Ghazni to seek safety outside Afghanistan but his mother has decided to return home to her younger children. Ten-year-old Enaiatollah is left alone in Pakistan to fend for himself. In a book based on a true story, Italian novelist Fabio Geda describes Enaiatollah’s remarkable five-year journey from Afghanistan to Italy where he finally managed to claim political asylum. His ordeal took him through Iran, Turkey and Greece, working on building sites in order to pay people-traffickers, and enduring the physical misery of border crossings squeezed into the false bottoms of lorries or trekking across inhospitable mountains. A series of almost implausible strokes of fortune enabled him to get to Turin, where he found help from an Italian family and met Fabio Geda. The result of their friendship is this unique book in which Enaiatollah’s engaging, moving voice is brilliantly captured by Geda’s subtle storytelling. In Geda’s hands, Enaiatollah’s journey becomes a universal story of stoicism in the face of fear, and the search for a place where life is liveable.

Sweetness in the belly
by Camilla Gibb

Available as eBook
Adult fiction

A richly imagined tale of one woman’s search for love and belonging. In Thatcher’s London, Lilly, a white Muslim nurse, struggles in a state of invisible exile. As Ethiopian refugees gradually fill the flats of the housing estate where she lives, Lilly tentatively begins to share with them her longing for the home she herself once had in Africa and her heartbreaking search for her missing lover. Back in Haile Selassie’s Ethiopia, the young Lilly, born in the 1950s to British parents, now orphaned and full of religious conviction, finds herself living in the city of Harar. She is drawn to the idealistic young doctor, Aziz, himself an outsider in the community. But then convulsions of a new revolutionary order separate them, sending Lilly to an England she has never seen, while Aziz disappears.

Exit West
by Mohsin Hamid

Available as eBook and eAudiobook
Adult fiction

Nadia and Saeed are two ordinary young people, attempting to do an extraordinary thing – to fall in love – in a world turned upside down. Theirs will be a love story but also a story about how we live now and how we might live tomorrow, of a world in crisis and two human beings travelling through it. Civil war has come to the city which Nadia and Saeed call home. Before long they will need to leave their motherland behind – when the streets are no longer useable and the unknown is safer than the known. They will join the great outpouring of people fleeing a collapsing city, hoping against hope, looking for their place in the world . . .

When the Moon is low
by Nadia Hashimi

Available as eBook
Adult fiction

In Kabul, we meet Fereiba, a schoolteacher who puts her troubled childhood behind her when she finds love in an arranged marriage. But Fereiba’s comfortable life implodes when the Taliban rises to power and her family becomes a target of the new fundamentalist regime. Forced to flee with her three children, Fereiba has one hope for survival: to seek refuge with her sister’s family in London. Traveling with forged papers and depending on the kindness of strangers, Fereiba and the children make a dangerous crossing into Iran under cover of darkness, the start of a harrowing journey that reduces her from a respected wife and mother to a desperate refugee. Eventually they fall into the shadowy underground network of the undocumented who haunt the streets of Europe’s cities. And then, in a busy market square in Athens, their fate takes a frightening turn when Fereiba’s teenage son, Saleem, becomes separated from the rest of the family. Without his mother, Saleem is forced, abruptly and unforgivingly, to come of age in a world of human trafficking and squalid refugee camps. Heartbroken, Fereiba has no choice but to continue on with only her daughter and baby. Mother and son cross border after perilous border, risking their lives in the hope of finding a place where they can be reunited.

The Optician of Lampedusa
by Emma Jane Kirby

Available as eBook
Adult non-fiction

‘From an award-winning BBC journalist, this moving book turns the testimony of an accidental hero into a timeless story about the awakening of human courage and conscience’. ‘I can hardly begin to describe to you what I saw as our boat approached the source of that terrible noise. I hardly want to. You won’t understand because you weren’t there. You can’t understand. You see, I thought I’d heard seagulls screeching. Seagulls fighting over a lucky catch. Birds. Just birds.’ Emma-Jane Kirby has reported extensively on the reality of mass migration today. In The Optician of Lampedusa she brings to life the moving testimony of an ordinary man whose late summer boat trip off a Sicilian island unexpectedly turns into a tragic rescue mission.

Butterfly
by Yusra Mardini

Available as eBook and eAudiobook
Adult fiction

Being a refugee is not a choice. Our choice is to die at home or risk death trying to escape. – Yusra Mardini Yusra Mardini fled her native Syria to the Turkish coast in 2015 and boarded a small dinghy full of refugees bound for Greece. When the small and overcrowded boat’s engine cut out, it began to sink. Yusra, her sister and two others took to the water, pushing the boat for three and a half hours in open water until they eventually landed on Lesbos, saving the lives of the passengers aboard. Butterfly is the story of that remarkable woman, whose journey started in a war-torn suburb of Damascus and took her through Europe to Berlin and from there to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Yusra Mardini is an athlete, one of People magazine’s twenty-five women changing the world, a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and one of Time Magazine’s thirty most influential teens of 2016.

We are not Refugees
by Agus Morales

Available as eBook
Adult non-fiction

For over a decade, human rights journalist Agus Morales has journeyed to the sites of the world’s most brutal conflicts and spoken to the victims of violence and displacement. To Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Central African Republic. To Central America, the Congo, and the refugee camps of Jordan. To the Tibetan Parliament in exile in northern India. We are living in a time of massive global change, when negative images of refugees undermine the truth of their humiliation and suffering. By bringing us stories that reveal the individual pain and the global scope of the crisis, Morales reminds us of the truth and appeals to our conscience.

The Displaced
by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Available as eBook
Adult non-fiction

The American people spoke up, with protests, marches, donations, and lawsuits that quickly overturned the order. But the refugee caps remained. In The Displaced, Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Viet Thanh Nguyen, himself a refugee, brings together a host of prominent refugee writers to explore and illuminate the refugee experience. Featuring original essays by a collection of writers from around the world, The Displaced is an indictment of closing our doors, and a powerful look at what it means to be forced to leave home and find a place of refuge.

The Lightless Sky
by Gulwali Passarlay

Available as eBook
Adult non-fiction

Gulwali Passarlay was sent away from Afghanistan at the age of twelve, after his father was killed in a gun battle with the US army for hiding Taliban fighters. Smuggled into Iran, Gulwali began a twelve-month odyssey across Europe, spending time in prisons, suffering hunger, cruelty, brutality, nearly drowning in a tiny boat on the Mediterranean. Somehow he survived, and made it to Britain, no longer an innocent child but still a boy of twelve. Here in Britain he was fostered, sent to a good school, won a place at a top university, and was chosen to carry the Olympic torch in 2012. He wants to tell his story – to bring to life the plight of the thousands of men, women and children who risk their lives to leave behind the troubles of their homelands. Many die along the way, some are sent back to face imprisonment and possible death, some survive and make it here, to a country which offers them the chance of a life of freedom and opportunity. One boy’s story is the central story of our times, and this memoir celebrates the triumph of courage and determination over adversity.

The Girl who smiled beads
by Clemantine Wamariya

Available as eBook and eAudiobook
Adult non-fiction

Clemantine Wamariya was six years old when her mother and father began to speak in whispers, when neighbours began to disappear, and when she heard the loud, ugly sounds her brother said were thunder. In 1994, she and her fifteen-year-old sister, Clare, fled the Rwandan massacre and spent the next six years wandering through seven African countries, searching for safety—perpetually hungry, imprisoned and abused, enduring and escaping refugee camps, finding unexpected kindness, witnessing inhuman cruelty. They did not know whether their parents were dead or alive. When Clemantine was twelve, she and her sister were granted refugee status in the United States, where she embarked on another journey, ultimately graduating from Yale. Yet the years of being treated as less than human, of going hungry and seeing death, could not be erased. She felt at the same time six years old and one hundred years old. In The Girl Who Smiled Beads, Clemantine provokes us to look beyond the label of ‘victim’ and recognise the power of the imagination to transcend even the most profound injuries and aftershocks. Devastating yet beautiful, and bracingly original, it is a powerful testament to her commitment to constructing a life on her own terms.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Martin Luther King Jr

Are you looking to explain what ‘refuge’ mean, or what it means being a refugee to a young child? We have some great books to help you get started in our ‘When A Book Might Help’ collection.

Useful organisations

Gov.uk:
Information about settlement: refugee or humanitarian protection

Hampshire County Council:
Asylum seekers and refugees guide

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