World Refugee Day Book Recommendations for Adults

World Refugee Day is celebrated each year on June 20, and this year's focus is on the right to seek safety. This day celebrates the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution. These book recommendations include fiction and non-fiction works to help build empathy and understanding for their struggles, as well as recognizing the resilience shown as they rebuild their lives.

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi

With astonishing empathy and the effortless grace of a natural storyteller, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie weaves together the lives of three characters swept up in the turbulence of the decade. Thirteen-year-old Ugwu is employed as a houseboy for a university professor full of revolutionary zeal. Olanna is the professor’s beautiful mistress, who has abandoned her life of privilege in Lagos for a dusty university town and the charisma of her new lover. And Richard is a shy young Englishman in thrall to Olanna’s twin sister, an enigmatic figure who refuses to belong to anyone. As Nigerian troops advance and the three must run for their lives, their ideals are severely tested, as are their loyalties to one another.

al Rabeeah, Abu Bakr

The story of Abu Bakr al Rabeeah, a young boy whose family moved from Iraq to Syria just before the start of the Syrian civil war. In 2014 his family finally found safety in immigrating to Edmonton, Canada.

Ali, Anar

As the heir to a successful business empire in Uganda, Mansoor Visram had everything a man could want: money, power, influence, a beautiful wife, and a baby son. But when Idi Amin's regime begins its crackdown on its South Asian population, Mansoor and his family are forced to flee, leaving behind everything. As refugees, they arrive in Canada, settling in Calgary, but the strain of what the family has been through begins to show. Years later, Mansoor's son, Ashif, is a rising star in a multinational firm. He has spent years distancing himself from his overbearing father but finds himself continuously drawn back to the family he left behind. Now, his father claims he has a plan for a dry cleaning franchise that will raise the Visrams back into their old position of prominence. But after so many failed attempts to succeed, one more pipe dream may be too many for the family to bear. Night of Power examines the psychological and emotional burdens placed on a family of refugees.

Ali, Mohamed Abdulkarim

Writing from a homeless shelter in downtown Toronto, Mohamed "Mo" Ali chronicles how he ended up there in this powerful and often irreverent memoir of exile, addiction, and racism. Kidnapped by his father on the eve of Somalia's societal implosion, Ali was taken first to the Netherlands by his stepmother, and then on to Canada. With its promise of freedom, opportunity, and multiculturalism, his new home seemed to offer a new lease on life. But unable to fit in, he turned to partying and drugs. Interwoven with world history and sociopolitical commentary on Somalia, Canada, and Europe, the story of this gay Muslim immigrant is told with tenderness in a refreshing and welcome new voice. Mohamed Abdulkarim Ali lives in Toronto. This is his first book.

Bala, Sharon

A debut novel about a thirty-five-year-old Sri Lankan refugee who has survived the harrowing experiences of civil war, a prison camp, and a perilous ocean voyage to Canada -- but his journey has only begun, as he and his young son navigate the morass of the refugee system.

Beah, Ishmael

This is how wars are fought now: by children, hopped-up on drugs and wielding AK-47s. Children have become soldiers of choice. Ishmael Beah, now 25 years old, tells how at the age of twelve, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By thirteen, he'd been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts.--From publisher description.

Cao, Lan

A mother-daughter memoir exploring loss, love, and healing, told in two alternating voices, from the critically acclaimed novelist and her teenage daughter.

Cleave, Chris

From the author of the international bestseller Incendiary comes a haunting novel about the tenuous friendship that blooms between two disparate strangers—one an illegal Nigerian refugee, the other a recent widow from suburban London.

Danticat, Edwidge

It is 1937 and Amabelle Désir, a young Haitian woman living in the Dominican Republic, has built herself a life as the servant and companion of the wife of a wealthy colonel. She and Sebastian, a cane worker, are deeply in love and plan to marry. But Amabelle's world collapses when a wave of genocidal violence, driven by Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo, leads to the slaughter of Haitian workers. Amabelle and Sebastian are separated, and she desperately flees the tide of violence for a Haiti she barely remembers. Already acknowledged as a classic, this harrowing story of love and survival--from one of the most important voices of her generation--is an unforgettable memorial to the victims of the Parsley Massacre and a testimony to the power of human memory.

Eat Offbeat

Refugees By Status, Chefs By Calling founded in November 2015 by a brother and sister who came to New York from the Middle East, Eat Offbeat is a unique catering company staffed by refugee and immigrant chefs who have found a new home, and new hope, for their lives. Now, in 70 authentic, nourishing recipes, with roots and soul that run as deep as their flavors, The Kitchen without Borders brings the culinary traditions of fourteen chefs from around the world including Syria, Iran, Eritrea, and Venezuela, right to our tables. Discover delicious, unexpected flavor combinations, and ingredients-like sumac, pomegranate molasses, tahini-that will enhance the repertoire of any home cook or adventurous eater. Here is Iraqi Biryani, a rice dish combining vegetables and plump dried fruits with warming spices. Or an irresistibly cooling yogurt and fresh mint drink native to Afghanistan, known as doogh. Gorgeously smooth Syrian hummus, the original inspiration for Eat Offbeat. And Chari Bari, hand-formed meatballs simmered in a Nepali-spiced tomato and cashew sauce.

Fleming, Melissa

The story of a young Syrian refugee's attempt to reach Sweden, focusing on her ordeal in icy waters after the dilapidated fishing vessel in which she was traveling--along with 500 others--sinks.

Geda, Fabio

A 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.

Gourevitch, Philip

In 1994 the Rwandan government implemented a policy for the Hutu majority to murder everyone in the Tutsi majority.

Habib, Samra

A queer Muslim searches for the language to express her truest self, making peace with her sexuality, her family, and Islam. Growing up in Pakistan, Samra Habib lacks a blueprint for the life she wants. She has a mother who gave up everything to be a pious, dutiful wife and an overprotective father who seems to conspire against a life of any adventure. Plus, she has to hide the fact that she's Ahmadi to avoid persecution from religious extremists. As the threats against her family increase, they seek refuge in Canada, where new financial and cultural obstacles await them. When Samra discovers that her mother has arranged her marriage, she must again hide a part of herself--the fun-loving, feminist teenager that has begun to bloom--until she simply can't any longer.

Hamid, Mohsin

From the internationally bestselling author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, a love story that unfolds in a world being irrevocably transformed by migration. 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. Exit West is an epic compressed into a slender page-turner--both completely of our time and for all time, Mohsin Hamid's most ambitious and electrifying novel yet.

Hawa Abdi

Dr. Hawa Abdi, "the Mother Teresa of Somalia" and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, is the founder of a massive camp for internally displaced people located a few miles from war-torn Mogadishu, Somalia. Since 1991, when the Somali government collapsed, famine struck, and aid groups fled, she has dedicated herself to providing help for people whose lives have been shattered by violence and poverty. She turned her 1300 acres of farmland into a camp that has numbered up to 90,000 displaced people, ignoring the clan lines that have often served to divide the country. She inspired her daughters, Deqo and Amina, to become doctors. Together, they have saved tens of thousands of lives in her hospital, while providing an education to hundreds of displaced children.

Hosseini, Khaled

Traces the unlikely friendship of a wealthy Afghan youth and a servant's son in a tale that spans the final days of Afghanistan's monarchy through the atrocities of the present day.

Kim, Ŭn-ju

Eunsun Kim was born in North Korea, one of the most secretive and oppressive countries in the modern world. As a child Eunsun loved her country...despite her school field trips to public executions, daily self-criticism sessions, and the increasing gnaw of hunger as the country-wide famine escalated. By the time she was eleven years old, Eunsun's father and grandparents had died of starvation, and Eunsun was in danger of the same. Finally, her mother decided to escape North Korea with Eunsun and her sister, not knowing that they were embarking on a journey that would take them nine long years to complete. Before finally reaching South Korea and freedom, Eunsun and her family would live homeless, fall into the hands of Chinese human traffickers, survive a North Korean labor camp, and cross the deserts of Mongolia on foot.

Kingsley, Patrick

Europe is facing a wave of migration unmatched since the end of World War II - and no one has reported on this crisis in more depth or breadth than The Guardian's migration correspondent, Patrick Kingsley. Throughout 2015, Kingsley traveled to 17 countries along the migrant trail, meeting hundreds of refugees making epic odysseys across deserts, seas and mountains to reach the holy grail of Europe. This is Kingsley's unparalleled account of who these voyagers are. It's about why they keep coming, and how they do it. It's about the smugglers who help them on their way, and the coastguards who rescue them at the other end. The volunteers that feed them, the hoteliers that house them, and the border guards trying to keep them out. And the politicians looking the other way. The New Odyssey is a work of original, bold reporting written with a perfect mix of compassion and authority by the journalist who knows the subject better than any other.

Kurdi, Tima

Caught in the crosshairs of civil war, her family risked everything and fled their homes. Tima worked tirelessly to help them find safety, but their journey was far from easy. Although thwarted by politics, hounded by violence, and separated by vast distances, the Kurdis encountered setbacks at every turn, they never gave up hope. And when tragedy struck, Tima suddenly found herself thrust onto the world stage as an advocate for refugees everywhere, a role for which she had never prepared but that allowed her to give voice to those who didn't have an opportunity to speak for themselves. From the jasmine-scented neighbourhoods of Damascus before the war to the streets of Aleppo during it, to the refugee camps of Europe and the leafy suburbs of Vancouver, The Boy on the Beach is one family's story of love, loss, and the persistent search for safe harbour in a devastating time of war.

Luiselli, Valeria

Structured around the forty questions Luiselli translates and asks undocumented Latin-American children facing deportation, Tell Me How It Ends (an expansion of her 2016 Freeman's essay of the same name) humanizes these young migrants and highlights the contradiction of the idea of America as a fiction for immigrants with the reality of racism and fear--both here and back home.

Mardini, Yusra

When young Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini realized her boat's engine shut down as she was traveling from Syria to Greece with other refugees, there was no hesitation: she dove into the water. Surfacing, she heard desperate prayers and sobbing from the passengers in the sinking boat above her. Between the waves, her elder sister Sarah screamed at her to get back on the boat. But Mardini was determined. She was not going to let Sarah do this alone. Grabbing the rope with one hand, she began kicking up the black water, inching the boat towards the distant shore.

Mehta, Suketu

An argument for why the United States and the West should accept more immigrants, and would benefit from doing so.

Mengestu, Dinaw

Seventeen years ago, Sepha Stephanos fled the Ethiopian Revolution after witnessing soldiers beat his father to the point of certain death, selling off his parents' jewelry to pay for passage to the United States. Now he finds himself running a grocery store in a poor African-American neighborhood in Washington, D.C. His only companions are two fellow African immigrants who share his feelings of frustration with and bitter nostalgia for their home continent. He realizes that his life has turned out completely different and far more isolated from the one he had imagined for himself years ago.

Napolitano, Jo

Uncovers the key civil rights battle that immigrant children fought alongside the ACLU to ensure equal access to education within a xenophobic nation.

Nguyen, Viet Thanh

From a young Vietnamese refugee who suffers profound culture shock when he comes to live with two gay men in San Francisco, to a woman whose husband is suffering from dementia and starts to confuse her for a former lover, to a girl living in Ho Chi Minh City whose older half-sister comes back from America having seemingly accomplished everything she never will, the stories are a captivating testament to the dreams and hardships of immigration.

Rawlence, Ben

To the charity workers, Dadaab refugee camp is a humanitarian crisis; to the Kenyan government, it is a 'nursery for terrorists'; to the western media, it is a dangerous no-go area; but to its half a million residents, it is their last resort. In City of Thorns, Rawlence interweaves the stories of nine individuals to show what life is like in the camp and to sketch the wider political forces that keep the refugees trapped there. Rawlence combines intimate storytelling with broad socio-political investigative journalism.

St. John, Warren

Clarkston, Georgia, was a typical Southern town until it was designated a refugee settlement centre in the 1990s, becoming home to scores of families in flight from the world's war zones—from Liberia and Sudan to Iraq and Afghanistan. Suddenly Clarkston's streets were filled with women wearing the hijab, the smells of cumin and curry, and kids of all colours playing football in any open space they could find. Among them was Luma Mufleh, a Jordanian woman who founded a youth football team to unify Clarkston's refugee children and keep them off the streets. These kids named themselves the Fugees.

Tran, G. B.

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.

Tran, Vu

Robert, an Oakland cop, still can't let go of Suzy, the enigmatic Vietnamese wife who left him two years ago. Now she's disappeared from her new husband, Sonny, a violent Vietnamese smuggler and gambler who's blackmailing Robert into finding her for him. As he pursues her through the sleek and seamy gambling dens of Las Vegas, shadowed by Sonny's sadistic son, "Junior," and assisted by unexpected and reluctant allies, Robert learns more about his ex-wife than he ever did during their marriage. He finds himself chasing the ghosts of her past, one that reaches back to a refugee camp in Malaysia after the fall of Saigon, as his investigation soon uncovers the existence of an elusive packet of her secret letters to someone she left behind long ago. Although Robert starts illuminating the dark corners of Suzy’s life, the legacy of her sins threatens to immolate them all.

Ung, Loung

One of seven children of a high-ranking government official, Loung Ung lived a privileged life in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh until the age of five. Then, in April 1975, Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge army stormed into the city, forcing Ung's family to flee and, eventually, to disperse. Loung was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans, her siblings were sent to labor camps, and those who survived the horrors would not be reunited until the Khmer Rouge was destroyed.

Wamariya, Clemantine

Clemantine Wamariya was six years old when her mother and father began to speak in whispers, when neighbors began to disappear, and when she heard the loud, ugly sounds her brother said were thunder. It was 1994, and in 100 days more than 800,000 people would be murdered in Rwanda and millions more displaced. Clemantine and her fifteen-year-old sister, Claire, ran and spent the next six years wandering through seven African countries searching for safety. They did not know whether their parents were alive. At age twelve, Clemantine and Claire were granted asylum in the United States. Raw, urgent, yet disarmingly beautiful, this book captures the true costs and aftershocks of war: what is forever lost, what can be repaired, the fragility and importance of memory. A riveting story of dislocation, survival.

Wiesel, Elie

Born in the town of Sighet, Transylvania, Elie Wiesel was a teenager when he and his family were taken from their home in 1944 to the Auschwitz concentration camp, and then to Buchenwald. [This book] is the terrifying record of Elie Wiesel's memories of the death of his family, the death of his own innocence, and his despair as a deeply observant Jew confronting the absolute evil of man.

Yang, Kao Kalia

In search of a place to call home, thousands of Hmong families made the journey from the war-torn jungles of Laos to the overcrowded refugee camps of Thailand and onward to America. But lacking a written language of their own, the Hmong experience has been primarily recorded by others. Driven to tell her family’s story after her grandmother’s death, The Latehomecomer is Kao Kalia Yang’s tribute to the remarkable woman whose spirit held them all together. It is also an eloquent, firsthand account of a people who have worked hard to make their voices heard.

Summaries provided by DPL's catalog unless otherwise noted. Click on each title to view more information.