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Books about refugees

Fiction books for children

What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng (2006)

Dave Eggers
This is the story of Valentino Achak Deng, a refugee in war-ravaged southern Sudan who flees from his village in the mid-1980s and becomes one of the so-called Lost Boys. Valentino’s travels bring him in contact with enemy soldiers, with liberation rebels, with hyenas and lions, with disease and starvation, and with deadly murahaleen (militias on horseback) the same sort who currently terrorize Darfur. Eventually Deng is resettled in the United States with almost 4000 other young Sudanese men, and a very different struggle begins.

What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng (2006)

By Dave Eggers

This is the story of Valentino Achak Deng, a refugee in war-ravaged southern Sudan who flees from his village in the mid-1980s and becomes one of the so-called Lost Boys. Valentino’s travels bring him in contact with enemy soldiers, with liberation rebels, with hyenas and lions, with disease and starvation, and with deadly murahaleen (militias on horseback) the same sort who currently terrorize Darfur. Eventually Deng is resettled in the United States with almost 4000 other young Sudanese men, and a very different struggle begins.

Freeing Ali: The Human Face of the Pacific Solution (2005)

Michael Gordon
Michael Gordon was the first journalist to gain unrestricted access to the refugee detention centre on Nauru. Freeing Ali tells of detainee Ali Mallaie, and follows his story from Afghanistan to Nauru, and ultimately to Melbourne. He recounts the experiences of survivors of the SIEV X tragedy and the ‘children overboard’ saga. At a time when the Australian government was under growing pressure for a change in policy, Gordon assesses the human and financial cost of the former Pacific Solution.

Human Cargo: A Journey Among Refugees (2005)

By Caroline Moorehead

This book looks at ‘human cargo’ from Afghanistan, Liberia, Palestine and many other places. Moorehead has visited war zones, camps, prisons – and the Dinka families from the Sudan who were re-settled north of the Arctic Circle in Finland. She follows the fate of 57 young member of the Mandingo tribe, who fled ethnic cleansing and ended up happily in America via Egypt.

Dark Victory (2004)

David Marr and Marian Wilkinson
From two of the country’s most accomplished investigative journalists, this book offers an inside account of the Tampa affair and the political campaigning that powered the ensuing crisis.

Child Soldier (2004)

China Keitetsi
This is a powerful true story of Keitetsi, a child soldier who joined the Ugandan National Resistance Army at just eight years old. Her story details the abuse she suffered at the hands of her officers and how she finally escaped to Europe to start a new life. Now living in Denmark, she is an international campaigner on child soldiers.

Tampering with Asylum: A Universal Humanitarian Problem (2003)

Lives in Limbo: Voices of Refugees Under Temporary Protection (2004)

By Michael Leach and Fethi Mansouri

In this book, 35 refugees mostly from Iraq and Afghanistan talk directly about their quest for asylum in Australia. They provide poignant details of persecution in their home country, their journey to Australia, prolonged periods of mandatory detention, and life as temporary protection visa (TPV) holders. While the temporary protection visa regime has since been dismantled, their stories remain pertinent.
Frank Brennan
Frank Brennan wrote this book in response to the 2001 Tampa Affair, when the Norwegian freighter MV Tampa, and its cargo of rescued people seeking asylum, were denied permission to dock at the nearest landfall of Christmas Island. The book compares Australia’s dramatic over-reaction with the response of the United States and Europe, and offers a practical blueprint for countries wanting to humanely protect people seeking asylum.

Asylum: Voices Behind the Razor Wire (2003)

Heather Tyler
This is a collection of first-hand accounts describing what has driven people seeking asylum to flee their homelands to come to Australia seeking refuge, and detailing the traumas involved both in flight from their homes and in detention on Australian shores. Tyler also looks at Australia’s perception of people seeking asylum and media portrayals.

Borderline: Australia’s Treatment of Refugees and Asylum Seekers (2002)

Peter Mares
Written at a time when the arrival of ‘boat people on the Australian coast was re-igniting fears of a massive influx of refugees and people seeking asylum, Peter Mares examines the legal, moral, and political questions posed by Australia’s treatment of people seeking asylum and refugees.

The Suitcase: Refugee Voices from Bosnia and Croatia (1997)

By Rada Boric, Julie Mertus, Jasmina Tesanovic and Habiba Metikos

This is powerful collection of memoirs – including essays, letters, and poems – from refugees fleeing Bosnia and Croatia during the civil wars in the former Yugoslavia. Contributors from all ethnic groups and every region of Bosnia and Croatia describe their loved ones, their sense of community and their towns and homes that they have had to leave behind. These stories tell of perseverance, brutality, exile, and courage.

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