The UN’s International Day of Peace is observed on 21 September 2019, a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace around the world. Only by taking action on issues such as poverty, climate change and social justice, just some of the issues that UN member states have pledged to tackle, can we even start to imagine a peaceful world where people are no longer forced to become refugees. 
The current refugee crisis is the worst in history. Every day, 34,000 people leave settled lives behind, desperate to find a safer, more hopeful future. Migration has become a political football across Europe and further afield, and media scare stories mean it is all too easy to lose sight of the humanity at the heart of this emergency. Here are just some stories of the people who have experienced either voluntary migration or have fled their homes as refugees, which help us understand a little better the issues surrounding immigration and the refugee crisis.

 

No Friend But the Mountains by Behrouz Boochani

In 2013, Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani fled Iran and sought asylum in Australia, but instead, he was illegally imprisoned in the country’s notorious detention camp on Manus Island in northern Papua New Guinea. Painstakingly written on a smuggled mobile phone, one text at a time, No Friend But the Mountains is Boochani’s gripping story. 

Discover more about Behrouz's story here.

 

 

England: Poems from a School edited by Kate Clanchy

In this unique anthology, Kate Clanchy brings together the poetry of the students of Oxford Spires Academy, a small comprehensive school where over thirty languages are spoken and where teaching focuses on poetry, with prize-winning results. The poems give voice to the pain of migration, and the joy of building a new life in a new country.

Read a selection of poems from England: Poems From a School here.

Buy England: Poems from a School

 

My Parents: An Introduction/This Does Not Belong to You by Aleksander Hemon

Aleksander Hemon found himself an exile when, aged twenty-seven, war broke out in his home country of Sarajevo while he was on holiday in Boston. He was unable to return home for five years. In My Parents he tells the story of his parents’ immigration to Canada, and the lives which were disrupted by the war in Bosnia and the siege of Sarajevo. It is an intimate portrayal of family and devastating history of his native country. This Does Not Belong to You is an exhilarating, touching companion to My Parents, full of beautiful, poignant and funny memories of Hemon’s  Sarajevo childhood. 

 

 

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A love story which begins is Nigeria, then spins out into America and the UK as the lovers are divided by military rule in their home country, and reunited there fifteen years on.

Buy Americanah

 

The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota

Derbyshire-born author Sahota’s novel depicts a disparate group of Indian people thrown together in a house in Sheffield, and focuses on the pressures and pains of illegal immigration.

 

 

The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon

Tamil Trinidadian Sam Selvon was the first black British writer to tell the Windrush generation story of the 1950s. Homesick Moses Aloetta has lived in London for years, and watches as new arrivals learn first to survive in, and then love, their new city. 

Buy The Lonely Londoners

 

Burying the Typewriter by Carmen Bugan

Subtitled Childhood Under the Eye of the Secret Police, this is a first-hand account of Romanian oppression, and a deeply personal child’s eye view of a father’s rebellion, arrest and imprisonment.

 

 

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

A masterful magist realist novel set in New Jersey, but concerning dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. The overweight and nerdy protagonist daydreams of love, fantasy and the family curse.

Buy The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao 

 

Antigona and Me by Kate Clanchy

Clanchy tells the story of her Kosovan nanny, and her escape from the violence of war and her marriage. The kitchen-table conversations of writer and subject form the heart of this unusual tale.

 

 

Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay

Poet Jackie Kay takes a trip to Nigeria in search of her birth father in this warm but unsentimental journey into nature, nurture and identity.

Buy Red Dust Road

 

The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston

Chinese-American Hong Kingston delves into her mother’s past in this tale of a changing China in the 1940s. Fusing myth and memoir, The Woman Warrior is a classic of feminist writing.

Buy The Woman Warrior