World Refugee Day Teen Book Recommendations

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 for teen audiences to help build empathy and understanding for their struggles, as well as recognizing the resilience shown as they rebuild their lives.

Abdel-Fattah, Randa

Michael's parents are leaders of a new anti-immigrant political party called Aussie Values which is trying to halt the flood of refugees from the Middle East; Mina fled Afghanistan with her family ten years ago, and just wants to concentrate on fitting in and getting into college. But the mutual attraction they feel demands that they come to terms with their family's concerns and decide where they stand in the ugly anti-Muslim politics of the time.

Anderson, Natalie C.

When Abdi's family is kidnapped, he's forced to do the unthinkable: become a child soldier with the ruthless jihadi group Al Shabaab. In order to save the lives of those he loves, and earn their freedom, Abdi agrees to be embedded as a spy within the militia's ranks and to send dispatches on their plans to the Americans. The jihadists trust Abdi immediately because his older brother, Dahir, is already one of them, protégé to General Idris, aka the Butcher. If Abdi's duplicity is discovered, he will be killed.

Aung Thin, Michelle

For Hasina and her younger brother Araf, the constant threat of Sit Tat, the Myanmar Army, is a way of life in Rakhine province—just uttering the name is enough to send chills down their spines. As Rohingyas, they know that when they hear the wop wop wop of their helicopters there is one thing to do—run, and don’t stop. So when soldiers invade their village one night, and Hasina awakes to her aunt’s fearful voice, followed by smoke, and then a scream, run is what they do.

Brown, Roseanne A.

For Malik, the Solstasia festival is a chance to escape his war-stricken home and start a new life with his sisters in the prosperous desert city of Ziran. But when a vengeful spirit abducts his younger sister Nadia as payment to enter the city, Malik strikes a fatal deal: kill Karina, crown princess of Ziran, in exchange for Nadia's freedom.

Diaz, Alexandra

Twelve-year-old Jaime makes the treacherous journey from his home in Guatemala to his older brother in New Mexico after his cousin is murdered by a drug cartel.

Duany, Ger

The amazing autobiography of a young Sudanese boy who went from a child soldier to an international peace activist, a struggling refugee to a Hollywood actor. Sudan, 1980s: Ger Duany knew what he wanted out of life--make his family proud, play with his brothers and sisters, maybe get an education like his brother Oder suggested, and become a soldier for his people when he's old enough. But then his village was attacked by the North Sudanese military, death kept taking his loved ones away, and being a child soldier was not what he thought it would be. Amid heartbreak, death, and violence, can this lost boy find his way to safety? America, 1990's. After boarding a flight without his family to seek refuge in a foreign country, Ger worked tirelessly to adjust to a new life. It wasn't long before he was thrown into the spotlight, as people discovered his talents for basketball, modeling, and acting. Yet the spotlight wasn't the only thing following him, as he battled the effects of PTSD, resisted the siren call of the excesses of fame, and endured a new kind of racism in America. Amid fame, trauma, and the memory of home, can this lost boy find himself?

Dürr, Morten

When the Syrian war reaches Amina's village she is forced to escape, and during her perilous journey she thinks of the brave warrior Zenobia to remind her to stay strong.

Fleming, Melissa

A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea tells the story of Doaa Al-Zamel, a Syrian girl whose life was upended in 2011 by her country’s brutal civil war. She and her family escape to Egypt, but life soon quickly becomes dangerous for Syrians in that country. Doaa and her fiancé decide to flee to Europe to seek safety and an education, but four days after setting sail on a smuggler’s dilapidated fishing vessel along with five hundred other refugees, their boat is struck and begins to sink...

Gibney, Shannon

Spanning two centuries and two continents, [this] is the story of five generations of young people caught in a spiral of death and exile between Liberia and the United States.

Hasiuk, Brenda

Refugees from the Bosnian War, Lazar's family flees the Siege of Sarajevo and arrives in Winnipeg in the early 1990s. Despite various mini dramas unfolding at home, the bitter cold and a strange city and country, Lazar manages to find a place for himself at school, largely by making friends with Elle, a sassy, outspoken girl who divides her time between living with her hoarder mother and her hippie father, Jimmy, who lives in British Columbia. But as two geeky loners, Elle and Lazar are happy in their own bubble of friendship, especially after they form a pop duo and dream of making it big on Star Search. Soon Lazar's desperate escape out of Sarajevo seems far away, even as the trauma of his broken homeland looms large with his family at home.

Holler, Sue Farrell

A stranger-than-fiction story based on the real-life experiences of a young boy who was smuggled out of Ethiopia amid political unrest to start a new life from nothing in Calgary, Alberta.

Kuklin, Susan

Meet nine courageous young adults who have lived in the United States with a secret for much of their lives: they are not U.S. citizens. They came from Colombia, Mexico, Ghana, Independent Samoa, and Korea. They came seeking education, fleeing violence, and escaping poverty. All have heartbreaking and hopeful stories about leaving their homelands and starting a new life in America. And all are weary of living in the shadows. We Are Here to Stay is a very different book than it was intended to be when originally slated for a 2017 release, illustrated with Susan Kuklin’s gorgeous full-color portraits. Since the last presidential election and the repeal of DACA, it is no longer safe for these young adults to be identified in photographs or by name. Their photographs have been replaced with empty frames, and their names are represented by first initials. We are honored to publish these enlightening, honest, and brave accounts that encourage open, thoughtful conversation about the complexities of immigration — and the uncertain future of immigrants in America.

Kuklin, Susan

Five refugees recount their courageous journeys to America--and the unimaginable struggles that led them to flee their homelands ... The five, originally from Afghanistan, Myanmar, South Sudan, Iraq, and Burundi, give ... first-person testimonies about what it is like to flee war, face violent threats, grow up in a refugee camp, be sold into slavery, and resettle in America.

Lai, Thanhha

A Vietnam War refugee in Texas partners with a city boy with rodeo dreams to track down the younger brother she was separated from six years before when he was evacuated by American troops during the waning days of the Vietnam War.

Nayeri, Daniel

At the front of a middle school classroom in Oklahoma, a boy named Khosrou (whom everyone calls "Daniel") stands, trying to tell a story. His story. But no one believes a word he says. To them he is a dark-skinned, hairy-armed boy with a big butt whose lunch smells funny; who makes things up and talks about poop too much. But Khosrou's stories, stretching back years, and decades, and centuries, are beautiful, and terrifying, from the moment his family fled Iran in the middle of the night with the secret police moments behind them, back to the sad, cement refugee camps of Italy.and further back to the fields near the river Aras, where rain-soaked flowers bled red like the yolk of sunset burst over everything, and further back still to the Jasmine-scented city of Isfahan.

Nguyen, Trung Le

Real life isn't a fairytale. But Tié̂n still enjoys reading his favorite stories with his parents from the books he borrows from the local library. It's hard enough trying to communicate with your parents as a kid, but for Tié̂n, he doesn't even have the right words because his parents are struggling with their English. Is there a Vietnamese word for what he's going through? Is there a way to tell them he's gay?

Preus, Margi

In the 1940s, remote Les Lauzes, France, houses Jews, unregistered foreigners, forgers, and others who take great risks to shelter refugees and smuggle them to safety in Switzerland.

Rouse, Victorya

What is a refugee? English teacher Victorya Rouse assembles a collection of true teen immigration stories essential for our times, complete with maps, context, and background on the refugees' home countries.

Sabic-El-Rayess, Amra

In Bihac, Bosnia, in 1992, sixteen-year-old Amra and her family face starvation and the threat of brutal ethnic violence as Serbs and Bosnians clash, while a stray cat, Maci, provides solace.

Stamper, Vesper

Liberated from Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp in 1945, sixteen-year-old Gerta tries to make a new life for herself, aided by Lev, a fellow survivor, and Michah, who helps Jews reach Palestine.

Torres Sanchez, Jenny

Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña have no false illusions about the town they've grown up in and the dangers that surround them. Though their families--both biological and found--create a warm community for them, threats lurk around every corner. And when those threats become all too real, the three teens know they have no choice but to run: for the border, for the hope of freedom, and for their very lives.

Uwiringiyimana, Sandra

Sandra Uwiringiyimana was just ten years old when she found herself with a gun pointed at her head. The rebels had come at night—wielding weapons, torches, machetes. She watched as her mother and six-year-old sister were gunned down in a refugee camp, far from their home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The rebels were killing people who weren’t from the same community, the same tribe. In other words, they were killing people simply for looking different.

Vecchione, Patrice and Alyssa Raymond (editors)

With authenticity, integrity, and insight, this collection of poems addresses the many issues confronting first- and second- generation young adult immigrants and refugees, such as cultural and language differences, homesickness, social exclusion, human rights, racism, stereotyping, and questions of identity. Poems by Elizabeth Acevedo, Erika L. Sánchez, Samira Ahmed, Chen Chen, Ocean Vuong, Fatimah Asghar, Carlos Andrés Gómez, Bao Phi, Kaveh Akbar, Hala Alyan, and Ada Limón, among others, encourage readers to honor their roots as well as explore new paths, offering empathy and hope for those who are struggling to overcome discrimination. Many of the struggles immigrant and refugee teens face head-on are also experienced by young people everywhere as they contend with isolation, self-doubt, confusion, and emotional dislocation. 

Villalobos, Juan Pablo

Every year thousands of migrant children and teens cross the U.S.-Mexico border. The journey is treacherous and sometimes deadly, but worth the risk for migrants who are escaping gang violence and poverty in their home countries. Those refugees who do succeed face an immigration process that is as winding and multi-tiered as the journey that brought them here. Villalobos strings together the diverse experiences of eleven real migrant teenagers, offering readers a beginning road map to issues facing the region.

Yousafzai, Malala

Malala Yousafzai introduces some of the people behind the statistics and news stories we read or hear every day about the millions of people displaced worldwide. Malala's experiences visiting refugee camps caused her to reconsider her own displacement-- first as an Internally Displaced Person when she was a young child in Pakistan, and then as an international activist who could travel anywhere in the world except to the home she loved. In We Are Displaced, which is part memoir, part communal storytelling, Malala not only explores her own story, but she also shares the personal stories of some of the incredible girls she has met on her journeys-- girls who have lost their community, relatives, and often the only world they've ever known. In a time of immigration crises, war, and border conflicts, We Are Displaced is an important reminder from one of the world's most prominent young activists that every single one of the 68.5 million currently displaced is a person-- often a young person-- with hopes and dreams.