Last week, Carry the Future suggested that one way to respond to the Coronavirus Pandemic is to read, read, read. This week, we have even more recommendations for readers of all ages. 

Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees by Mary Beth Leatherdale Recommended for ages 10 and up

Artist Eleanor Shakespeare enhances this collection of compelling stories that appeal to even reluctant readers. Appearing somewhat like a newsletter, Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees shares stories of adolescents who have made the difficult journey to seek a safe life. The content is a useful resource to launch further discussion and emphasizes that the refugee crisis is a human-rights crisis and an ongoing, urgent issue.  Featuring five young boat refugees, the book chronicles individuals who survive the perilous voyage, persevere and prosper in spite of financial challenges and discrimination, and restores hope.

Refugee by Alan Gratz Recommended for grades 5-7

Three tales center on children and their families who were forced to flee their homes by war, violence, and unrest:  Josef, a young man leaves Nazi-Germany; Isabel, a young woman driven from Cuba on a makeshift raft in the 1990s as they escape the repression and poverty of Fidel Castro’s rule; and Mahmoud, a Syrian boy from Aleppo who begins the trek toward Europe in 2015. All three children embark on frightening journeys. Though the stories are separated by continents and time, startling connections bind the stories. Gatz, known for well-researched historical fiction weaves stories of hardship, trauma, stress, love, family, and sacrifice into a story that helps to make sense of today’s refugee crisis.   

The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown Recommended for Teenagers

Two-time Sibert honor winner Don Brown, recognized for full-color, non-fiction graphic novels creates a timely, eye-opening exploration of the Syrian refugee crisis. Beginning in 2011, Brown uses pen and ink digitally-colored art to depict refugees leaving war-torn Syria in Exodus-like proportions. The informal style of illustrations expresses deep emotions as they depict the survivors flooding neighboring countries which creates resentment and disruption. Using illustrations and direct quotes from survivors, Brown examines the refugee crisis and humanizes the often remote and incomprehensible narrative.  

The Ungrateful Refugee by Dina Nayeri Adult non-fiction

Nayeri combines her personal experience as a refugee with the stories of individuals she’s met after fleeing Iran to live in a hotel in Italy that became a refugee camp. Once granted asylum in the United States, Nayeri settled in Oklahoma, eventually studying at Princeton University. In stories that span escape to resettlement, Nayeri calls attention to the harmful way in which Western governments privilege certain dangers over others and challenges the reader to consider provocative questions in order to reform the manner in which we speak about refugees.  

The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya Adult non-fiction

In 1994, Clemantine Wamariya and her fifteen-year-old sister Claire fled the Rwandan massacre and spent the next six years navigating refugee camps and seven African countries.  During their journey to safety, they endure hunger, abuse, and cruelty. They also witnessed unexpected grace and kindness. Granted refugee status when she was twelve, Clemantine, along with Claire, comes to Chicago. Their lives diverge as Claire is a struggling single mother and Clemantine is taken in by a family. She attends private school, becomes a cheerleader, and attends Yale. Her past, however, is never far, often bursting at the seams so-to-speak as Clemantine struggles with shame and anger in her new life in America. Clemantine revisits the way it felt in a refugee camp: “others were invested in your suffering. You could see the surprise in aid workers’ faces when you upended their worldview by revealing that you, a refugee, spoke five languages or had aced calculus or ran a successful accounting firm.” Intimate and thought provoking, The Girl Who Smiled Beads is filled with poignant, vulnerable passages that invite readers into the depths of Clemantine’s confusion, fear, anger, triumphs, shame and joy. Her memoir serves to share the difficulties that comes with being a survivor and the binds fostered by war.

Don’t Tell Me You’re Afraid by Giuseppe Catozzella Adult fiction

Based on a true story, Don’t Tell Me You’re Afraid chronicles a Somali girl who risks her life to migrate to Europe in order to compete in the Olympic Games. A runner since she was eight years of age, Samia Omar shares her dream of running in the Olympics like Mo Farah with a neighbor, Ali, who becomes her “coach.” For years, the two train together in a deserted stadium as war escalates. Despite restrictions placed on Somali women, crippling war, and limited resources, Samia becomes a world class runner. In 2008, she is selected to compete at the Beijing Olympics. Finishing last in her heat, the stadium is still brought to its feet by the sight of the small, fierce Somali woman in modest clothes competing among the world’s best. With her sights set on the 2012 Games in London, Samia must leave Somalia where conditions have worsened. She risks her life to cross Africa and the Mediterranean. This novel is a “remarkable window” into a global crisis and courageous tale of perseverance. It is a sobering reminder of the life-threatening challenges many migrants face in pursuit of freedom.

Each book is a reminder of how dire the refugee crisis is. Please say YES to helping refugees! Click here to donate dollars for soap during the Coronavirus Pandemic!