March 22, 2022
The current refugee crisis caused by the invasion of Ukraine has been the focus of many news stories these days. Unfortunately, war and persecution have long been forcing people from their homes, but most of these refugee’s stories have been under reported and are often ignored or misunderstood. This month, the library is highlighting true and fictionalized stories of refugees from various backgrounds so we can better empathize with their experiences. All items on this list are available at the Perpich library. Click on titles for more information.
1. Call Me American by Abdi Nor Iftin (Memoir)
Abdi Nor Iftin first fell in love with America from afar. Sporting American clothes and dance moves, he became known around Mogadishu as Abdi American, but when the radical Islamist group al-Shabaab rose to power in 2006, it suddenly became dangerous to celebrate Western culture. Desperate to make a living, Abdi used his language skills to post secret dispatches to NPR and the Internet, which found an audience of worldwide listeners. But as life in Somalia grew more dangerous, Abdi was left with no choice but to flee to Kenya as a refugee. In an amazing stroke of luck, Abdi won entrance to the U.S. in the annual visa lottery. Now a proud resident of Maine, on the path to citizenship, Abdi Nor Iftin’s dramatic, deeply stirring memoir is truly a story for our time: a vivid reminder of why America still beckons to those looking to make a better life.
2. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Novel)
In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet–sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, thrust into premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors–doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As violence and the threat of violence escalate, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.
3. How Dare the Sun Rise by Sandra Uwiringiyimana & Abigail Pesta (Memoir)
Sandra was just ten years old when she found herself with a gun pointed at her head. She had watched as rebels gunned down her mother and six-year-old sister in a refugee camp. Remarkably, the rebel didn’t pull the trigger, and Sandra escaped. Thus began a new life for her and her surviving family members. With no home and no money, they struggled to stay alive. Eventually, through a United Nations refugee program, they moved to America, only to face yet another ethnic disconnect. Sandra may have crossed an ocean, but there was now a much wider divide she had to overcome. And it started with middle school in New York. In this memoir, Sandra tells the story of her survival, of finding her place in a new country, of her hope for the future, and how she found a way to give voice to her people.
4. In the Sea There Are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda (Novel)
An unflinching, inspirational, and incredibly moving novel based on the true story of Enaiatollah Akbari, a young boy whose agonizing struggle begins after his native Afghanistan becomes a dangerous place to live. His mother shepherds him across the border into Pakistan but has to leave him there to fend for himself.
5. An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (History)
Today in the United States, there are more than five hundred federally-recognized Indigenous nations comprising nearly three million people, descendants of the fifteen million Native people who once inhabited this land. The centuries-long genocidal program of the US settler-colonial regimen has largely been omitted from history. Now historian and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz offers a history of the United States told from the perspective of Indigenous peoples and reveals how Native Americans, for centuries, actively resisted expansion of the US empire.
6. The Most Beautiful Thing by Kao Kalia Yang; illustrated by Khoa Le (Picture Book)
Drawn from Minnesota author Kao Kalia Yang’s childhood experiences as a Hmong refugee, this moving picture book portrays a family with a great deal of love and little money. Weaving together Kalia’s story with that of her beloved grandmother, the book moves from the jungles of Laos to the family’s early years in the United States. When Kalia becomes unhappy about having to do without and decides she wants braces to improve her smile, it is her grandmother–a woman who has just one tooth in her mouth–who helps her see that true beauty is found with those we love most. Stunning illustrations from Vietnamese illustrator Khoa Le bring this intergenerational tale to life.
7. Somewhere in the Unknown World: A Collective Refugee Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang
Although Minnesota is not famous for its diversity, the state has welcomed more refugees per capita than any other. Yang–herself a Hmong refugee–has gathered stories of the stateless who today call the Twin Cities home. In their retelling, these stories of refugee journeys restore history and humanity to America’s strangers and redeem its long tradition of welcome.
8. Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey = حصى الطرقات : رحلة عائلة لاجئة / تاليف : مارغريت رورز ؛ رسوم : نزار علي بدر. by Margriet Ruurs; artwork by Nizar Ali Badr
With only what they can carry on their backs, Rama and her mother, father, grandfather and brother, Sami, set out to walk to freedom in Europe. This unique picture book was inspired by the stone artwork of Syrian artist Nizar Ali Badr, discovered by chance by Canadian children’s writer Margriet Ruurs. The author was immediately impressed by the strong narrative quality of Mr. Badr’s work, and, using many of Mr. Badr’s already-created pieces, she set out to create a story about the Syrian refugee crisis.
9. Vietnamerica: A Family’s Journey by GB Tran (Graphic Novel)
A memoir in graphic novel format about the author’s experiences as the son of Vietnamese immigrants who fled to America during the fall of Saigon describes how he learned his tragic ancestral history and the impact of the Vietnam War on his family while visiting their homeland years later.
10. Year of the Rabbit by Tian Veasna (Graphic Novel)
Cartoonist Tian Veasna was born just three days after the Khmer Rouge takeover, as his family set forth on the chaotic mass exodus from Phnom Penh. This graphic novel is based on firsthand accounts, all told from the perspective of his parents and other close relatives. Stripped of any money or material possessions, Veasna’s family found themselves exiled to the barren countryside along with thousands of others, where food was scarce and brutal violence a constant threat. Constantly on the edge of annihilation, they realized there was only one choice―they had to escape Cambodia and become refugees.
All items are available at the Perpich Library.