CW: Violence, gunfire, occupation
I’ve always lived in the same country, but that’s certainly not everyone’s experience. It’s not even all of my family’s experience. I have two books for you today that pay homage to the international refugee experience. With all of the abominable happenings in Afghanistan, we must remember to not speak for those who are experiencing trauma or make assumptions. Below are two books, one is a poetry anthology by young immigrants (with beautiful portraits of the poets!) and the other is a narrative story about living with military occupation.
I am certainly not an expert on global politics, and am learning more constantly. But I do know that it’s our obligation as citizens to redirect resources to those in need and to welcome refugees with open arms.
Carry On: Poetry by Young Immigrants
Portraits by Rogé
Published by Owl Kids Books
This book is beautiful, especially the large portraits of young immigrants. The poems are on the shorter side, making it accessible to younger readers (or those just learning English). Not all of the poems have a portrait of the author on the opposite page, but everything is well-labeled and easy to differentiate.
A line in particular that summarizes the book well is from Dowoo Kim, who writes “Immigration is heartache/But a lucky break too”. The muted color palette lends itself well to the serious nature of the topic at hand, and the reflective poetry that is on each page. Carry On not only gives the metaphorical microphone to those with lived experiences, but also reinforces the idea that an immigrant or refugee doesn’t look a certain way. Folks all over the globe emigrate to different countries for a myriad of reasons, which empowers the narrative that not all immigrants come from violent areas with a military presence.
What the Kite Saw
Published by Groundwood Books
Although this book is not based on a single historical event, it is woven together using both personal experiences, traveling, and world events (Palestinian children are specifically mentioned by the author in the back of the book, but Palestine is not the setting, it’s intentionally left vague). A young boy narrates his life under a military occupation, in which his father and brother have been taken away and there is a curfew in place for the citizens.
The use of color within the book is incredibly powerful; during the hour that curfews have been lifted, the boy can visit his friends in the park while his mother gets groceries. These times with his friends are brightly colored, while the time spent inside worried about the tanks and gunfire are much more grayscale.
The story focuses on small moments of happiness that make life under the occupation a bit more bearable. Imagination is a running theme, and how it can be an escape during difficult times. It’s important to note that there is significant mention of violence and gunfire in the story, it is not a story to be pulled randomly off the shelf with the expectation of light content. But the life depicted is the lived experiences of many families around the globe, and it’s important to not treat refugees and immigrants with an air of white saviorism but instead allow them to claim their own narratives.
These books were kindly sent by the publishers linked above, but all opinions are my own.