6 Books Featuring Refugees

6 Books Featuring Refugees

Hi everyone. I’m Rincey and I’m one of the contributing editors over at Book Riot. Recent events have been a lot lately and so this week I wanted to talk about some books that talk about refugees specifically. This is the thing that I personally am very passionate about and so I’m naturally drawn to these narratives. And so I thought that it would be good to talk about some of the books that I have read and I’m going to be reading about this topic in general. All of these are fiction, but I think that they all do a really great job of providing a perspective that a lot of people, at least people in the West and people including myself have no idea what it’s like to be a refugee and to be afraid to live in the country that you were born in and to try to find some sort of sanctuary somewhere else. So I’m going to go through these. I’ve broken them up into three different categories. I have two books that I’ve already read that I can highly recommend. I have two books that are basically the top of my TBR that I’m about to read. And then I have two books that are coming out in February. It all just like seemed to work out very well. I didn’t do this like on purpose but when I was putting together the list I just realized it all just worked out that way. So the first book that I have is The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. This is a pretty popular book. I feel like I don’t need to talk too much about it because I feel like almost everyone has read this book at this point. But if you haven’t, you definitely should. This book mainly follows this character named Amir who grows up in Afghanistan right before this massive revolution takes place. And this book deals with a lot of really difficult topics. There are chapters in here that are absolutely heartbreaking to read but I feel like that they’re also very necessary to read. I feel like a lot of people don’t know too much about Afghani history, myself included in this. And Khaled Hosseini provides a really fantastic point of view on this and provides a lot of really great background while also creating a really interesting read. So it doesn’t feel like you’re reading like a history textbook or even a nonfiction book or anything like that. He weaves the history so well into the overall narrative that it never becomes boring and it never becomes dry and you get to learn something. The next book that I have is Girl at War by Sara Novic. This book takes place in the 1990s in Croatia. You are following this young growing Anna. At the beginning of the story she’s about 10 years old and there are some major changes happening Croatia that eventually leads to a war breaking out. I don’t want to talk too much about this book. Again, I feel like all all of these books are kind of difficult to talk about the plot a lot because i don’t want to give too much away. I feel like a lot of the enjoyment that I personally got out of it was the question of what was going to happen to these characters and how are they going to survive and how are they going to adjust to all these things happening in their country. I love this one because again it talks about refugees but it talks about refugees from a country that we don’t necessarily associate with refugees A lot of people don’t know a lot about the wars that happened in Croatia in the ’90s. If you are a little bit older than you might remember it a little bit. Like I feel like I barely remember hearing about it during like Bill Clinton’s presidency, but even still I had no real idea of what was going on there. So I feel like, again, this book’s provides really great insight into that. It’s also categorized as a young adult book so it’s less dense, it’s less maybe heavy than it would be if it was just a general fiction title. But this book is so gripping and so readable and I think it also does a really great job of talking about what it’s like to be a refugee in the United States and the conflicts that you feel when you know that there are people in your home and people that you know are still suffering and aren’t able to get to a more secure place or more secure country. The next book that I have is Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai. Or Thanhha Lei. I’m not completely sure how to say the authors name. I apologize for that. This I believe is like a children’s book or a middle-grade book which I think is just so fantastic that someone has written and published a book targeted at kids about the subject. It follow this character named Hai — again I apologize if I’m mispronouncing all these names. But she is basically growing up in Vietnam and then the Vietnam War breaks out and she’s forced to leave her home in Saigon. And it’s about her dealing with all of these changes and leaving her home and figuring out what her hopes and dreams are for her life and what is potentially possible and not possible anymore because of these things that are happening. Again this is a really great book to read especially if you are intimidated by this topic or by the subject matter anything along those lines. I feel like middle grade or young adult books are really great way to go because you know they make it more digestible because it is for kids. It’s not that it’s sugarcoating anything and it’s not that is leaving out any details but it’s more about the fact that these are really difficult topics to read about and to talk about and they do it in a way that’s really great for kids and I think that it’s even great as an adult to see it broken down in this more simplistic way. The other book that is towards the top of my TBR right now is City of Saints & Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson. This is a pretty new release. I believe it just came out in January and Liberty actually talked about it on I believe was the most recent All the Books podcast, one of the more recent All the Books podcast episodes. This is sort of like a mystery thriller young adult book. So it’s not necessarily just about refugees and that storyline. There’s this whole mystery that’s wrapped up in here as well. But you’re mainly following these two characters who have fled from Congo and become refugees because of the war that’s breaking out there and the dangers that are there. And Natalie C. Anderson has actually worked I believe with the United Nations, working with and for refugees. So she definitely has experience and perspective on the whole situation which is something that I really appreciated because when I looked her up I realized that she wasn’t from the Congo. But then I looked into her background and it’s apparent that she has worked with refugees very closely. So I’m definitely looking forward to picking this one up. And then i have the final two books which are both coming out in February and are both highly anticipated by me and lots of other people. The first one is called The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen. This one is actually a collection of short stories and it talks about people who had left Vietnam for the United States. And obviously again it isn’t just about the refugee experience but it’s about these people acclimating to the United States and just the general struggles of humans of figuring out their purpose and figuring out how to survive in this new country, how to acclimate, all of these different things. I’m really interested to see and to read this short story collection. I’m already on hold at the library because Viet Thanh Nguyen already kind of touched on this a little bit in The Sympathizers. The main character in there is, came from Vietnam after the Vietnam War There’s a little bit more going on there but he definitely does talk about the experience of someone from Vietnam coming to the United States especially right around and after the Vietnam War. And the final one is Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. Mohsin Hamid is a really fantastic author. How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia was one of my favorite books like 2013 or 2014, whatever year it came out, it was like my favorite book that year. And he is just such as smart and just clever writer. He has such interesting perspectives and point of views in all of his books. They’re always pushing the boundaries a little bit of the reader’s point of view. In this book you are apparently following two characters whose country is like on the brink of civil war and they meet and then they fall in love and then their country you know, goes into war and they are forced to reevaluate their lives and to figure out if there is any way that they could potentially escape. And then it follows them, I believe, as they escape into another country and become aliens and their whole lives are basically turned upside down because of it. Again it’s a book that I haven’t read yet but it’s basically the top of my list as soon as it comes out. So yeah, that is everything I have you guys this week. If you have any books that are about refugees definitely leave them down in the comments below. I know there’s like What is the Worst by Dave Eggers and a couple of others out there. So yeah, definitely those down in the comments below. Or if you’ve read any of these I definitely would love to hear you guys talk about it down comments as well. So yeah, that’s all I have for this week and I will see you guys next week. Bye.

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About the Author: Sam Caldwell


  1. I was already in the process of looking for some books that dealt with this after the most recent event we've had happen here in the U.S., so the timing of this video is perfect! Thank you so much for the recommendations.

  2. The Happiest Refugee: A Memoir by Anh Do and Songs of a War Boy
    by Deng Thiak Adut. One has become a famous comedian and artist, the other was an ex child soldier and was recently nominated for the Australian of the year award. Both worth reading.

  3. Are there any refugee books written from the perspective of the women of Cologne, Germany or the Jews of France? I would like to read about their experiences with refugees.

  4. Thank you for doing this video at this time. Super-appropriate because of the outlandish happenings in U.S. Right now.

  5. If you like 'Girl at War,' I also recommend 'Pretty Birds' by Scott Simon, a fictional account of a Muslim Bosniac girl who decides to become a sniper.

  6. Where the Wind Leads: a refugee family's miraculous story of loss, rescue, and redemption by Vinh Chung is an amazing story of a Chinese family's flight from Vietnam. I loved this book!

  7. So many books to add to my TBR after watching this! I'm always so happy with the content you make Rincey, both on here and on your own channel. It's just so relevant and important!

  8. I've seen the cover for City of Saints and Thieves recently, it's so beautiful! It would be a cover-add even without being important subject matter! I own a copy of The Kite Runner, and have also read What is the What which was pretty good, and good at covering both before, during, and after the immigration of the main character.

  9. One book you should add to your list is The Gangster We Are All Looking For by Le Thi Diem Thuy. Written in vignettes this book reads like poetry. Her terse style captures years of pain and struggle in short, beautifully phrased moments. If you get the chance, check it out.

  10. The Kite Runner is so amazing, along with his other books. I honestly went into it expecting something hard to get through and dry but it blew my mind.

  11. Kite runner is pretty high on my need to read list, but the others sound amazing, too, and very relevant to the current state of the world… Great video!

  12. Salt House by Hala Alyan is also another literary novel I recommend. It just came out in May. A Palestinian family survives the Six Day War in the Middle East and is displaced in the next several decades where they come into contact with even more conflicts from Saddam Hussein and the rise of the Taliban as well as the aftermath of 9/11. It's about family, faith and fighting for a home.

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