Storytelling is what connects us to our humanity. It is what links us to our past, and provides a glimpse into our future. In honor of World Refugee Day, we’ve put together a reading list of books selected by RAIN’s Advisory Council. We hope our selections will help you shed new light on how our experiences shape us and where humanity has been and might be headed.
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.
Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche
by: Ethan Watters
The most devastating consequence of the spread of American culture across the globe has not been our golden arches or our bomb craters, but our bulldozing of the human psyche itself. American-style depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anorexia have begun to spread around the world like contagions, and the virus is us. Traveling from Hong Kong to Sri Lanka to Zanzibar to Japan, acclaimed journalist Ethan Watters witnesses firsthand how Western healers often steamroll indigenous expressions of mental health and madness and replace them with our own. In teaching the rest of the world to think like us, we have been homogenizing the way the world goes mad.
The Bone Woman: A Forensic Anthropologist’s Search for Truth in the Mass Graves of Rwanda, Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo
by: Clea Koff
In the spring of 1994, Rwanda was the scene of the first acts since World War II to be legally defined as genocide. Two years later, Clea Koff, a twenty-three-year-old forensic anthropologist analyzing prehistoric skeletons in the safe confines of Berkeley, California, was one of sixteen scientists chosen by the UN International Criminal Tribunal to go to Rwanda to unearth the physical evidence of genocide and crimes against humanity. The Bone Woman is Koff’s riveting, deeply personal account of that mission and the six subsequent missions she undertook—to Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo—on behalf of the UN.
Illegal: Life And Death In Arizona’s Immigration War Zone
by: Terry Greene Sterling
Arizona’s violent border is the busiest gateway for illegal immigration in America, making the state ground zero for the immigration debate. No state is as hostile to the undocumented, and no city is as unwelcoming as Phoenix. Yet Phoenix is home to thousands who live in the shadows, where civil rights are neglected and lives are lost. Illegal sheds light on the invisible immigrants who persevere despite kidnappings and drug wars and laws barring them. By profiling these undocumented people, and those—like notorious Sheriff Joe Arpaio—who persecute them, author Terry Greene Sterling exposes the dangerously tattered fabric of a divisive national crisis.
The Complete Persepolis (Persepolis #1-4)
by: Marjane Satrapi
Persepolis is the story of Satrapi’s unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming–both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland. It is the chronicle of a girlhood and adolescence at once outrageous and familiar, a young life entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up.
by: David Ngaruri Kenney
Asylum Denied is the gripping story of political refugee David Ngaruri Kenney’s harrowing odyssey through the world of immigration processing in the United States. Kenney, while living in his native Kenya, led a boycott to protest his government’s treatment of his fellow farmers. He was subsequently arrested and taken into the forest to be executed. This book, told by Kenney and his lawyer Philip G. Schrag from Kenney’s own perspective, tells of his near-murder, imprisonment, and torture in Kenya; his remarkable escape to the United States; and the obstacle course of ordeals and proceedings he faced as U.S. government agencies sought to deport him to Kenya.
Do They Hear You When You Cry
by: Fauziya Kassindja and Layli Miller Bashir
For Fauziya Kassindja, an idyllic childhood in Togo, West Africa, sheltered from the tribal practices of polygamy and genital mutilation, ended with her beloved father’s sudden death. Forced into an arranged marriage at age seventeen, Fauziya was told to prepare for kakia, the ritual also known as female genital mutilation. It is a ritual no woman can refuse. But Fauziya dared to try. This is her story–told in her own words–of fleeing Africa just hours before the ritual kakia was to take place, of seeking asylum in America only to be locked up in U.S. prisons, and of meeting Layli Miller Bashir, a law student who became Fauziya’s friend and advocate during her horrifying sixteen months behind bars.
Life and Death in Shanghai
by: Nien Cheng
In August 1966 a group of Red Guards ransacked the home of Nien Cheng. Her background made her an obvious target for the fanatics of the Cultural Revolution: educated in London, the widow of an official of Chiang Kai-Shek’s regime, and an employee of Shell Oil. When she refused to confess that any of this made her an enemy of the state, she was placed in solitary confinement, where she would remain for more than six years. Life and Death in Shanghai is the powerful story of Nien Cheng’s imprisonment, of the deprivation she endured, of her heroic resistance, and of her quest for justice when she was released.
First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers
by: Loung Ung
Chronicles the brutality of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, from the author’s forced ”evacuation” of Phnom Penh in 1975 to her family’s subsequent movements from town to town and eventual separation.
The Sun Is Also a Star
by: Nicola Yoon
Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science. Not fate. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story. Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.
Dragon Fighter – One Woman′s Epic Struggle for Peace With China
by: Rebiya Kadeer
A remarkable autobiographical journey from humble beginnings to a position as a powerful world figure fighting for her nation’s self-determination. Along the ancient Silk Road where Europe, Asia, and Russia converge stands the four-thousand-year-old homeland of the Uyghurs. For millennia, they have survived clashes in the shadow of China, Russia, and Central Asia. Her life story is one of legends: as a refugee child, as a poor housewife, as a multimillionaire, as a high official in China’s National People’s Congress, as a political prisoner in solitary confinement for two of nearly six years in jail, and now as a political dissident living in Washington, DC, exiled from her own land.
Behold the Dreamers
by: Imbolo Mbue
A debut novel about marriage, immigration, class, race, and the trapdoors in the American Dream—the unforgettable story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy. Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. As all their lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice.