According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, by the end of 2017, the number of people worldwide living in forced exile had reached 25.4 million. Another 40 million people had been internally displaced, and a further 3.1 million were seeking asylum. Their experiences provide insight into one aspect of the very human toll that warfare takes. Forthcoming memoirs, fiction, and as-told-to accounts present intimate perspectives on statelessness.
Their Story Is Our Story, a nonprofit group that seeks to raise awareness of the refugee crisis, offers a window onto the experience of displaced people in Let Me Tell You My Story (Familius, Oct.). The group’s interview teams followed some 40 refugee families from Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia over a two-year period. Presented Humans of New York–style, the photos, first-person stories, and artwork document the lives of people who have found shelter, if of a precarious kind, in the West.
In the recently released memoir A Line in the River (Bloomsbury), novelist Jamal Mahjoub chronicles his family’s flight from Khartoum, Sudan, after an Islamist regime rose to power in 1989, and his return to the country almost 20 years later. The book blends personal narrative with an examination of the class divides and religious conflicts that continue to afflict the nation.
Human rights activist Kassem Eid offers a view of the Syria’s troubles in My Country (Bloomsbury, July). Eid, who was born to Palestinian refugees in a town near Damascus, recounts how he joined the Syrian Free Army, an anti-Assad force, after narrowly escaping death in a sarin gas attack in 2013. Eid now lives in a refugee community outside Berlin.
Alexandra Pringle, editor-in-chief at Bloomsbury in the U.K., says of My Country, “There is a sense of his exile in every word of the book.” She adds that the memoir “reminds you that the images of catastrophe that we see on the news are decades in the making,” and “discomfortingly, that this level of catastrophe can only come to pass when the world turns a blind eye to authoritarian governments.”
Novelist Nuruddin Farah has been exiled from his home country, Somalia, for decades and continues to address the nation’s troubles through his fiction. North of Dawn (Riverhead, Dec.) centers on an assimilated Somali couple living in Norway. After their radicalized son dies in a suicide attack in Somalia, they take in their daughter-in-law and grandchildren, who after the attack were forced to live in a refugee camp.
Another fictional treatment of Somalia’s ills comes in The Lion’s Binding Oath and Other Stories by Ahmed Ismail Yusuf (Catalyst, out now). Yusuf fled Somalia for the U.S. in 1997, eventually settling in Minneapolis; his previous book, Somalis in Minnesota, documents the experiences of fellow Somalis who have settled in the state. Here, he presents fictional stories of people caught up in the Horn of Africa’s conflicts, including a narrative about family members who become separated during their migration from Mogadishu to Kenya.
Jessica Powers, editor and publisher at Catalyst Press, says that bookseller interest—the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association chose it as a Midwest Connections pick for June, and Yusuf spoke at the association’s Spring Forum—suggests an appetite for more such stories.