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Refugee Week: 'Reading From New Places'

  • By Kayla Simpson-George
  • 7th June 2016
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Refugee Week takes place 20-26 June. Ahead of the many celebrations taking place across the country, Free Word and Islington Libraries have put together a book list that aims to promote a better understanding of migration for everyone. Below, our programme intern, Kayla Simpson-George, introduces the list and recommends five titles to get you started.

Refugee Week will take place 20-26 June, and Free Word, along with the rest of the UK, is celebrating. A festival exploring different communities and cultures, Refugee Week aims to build a better understanding between everyone. Events are being held across communities, from your local library to national arts centres and theatres.

In 2015, there were over 117,000 refugees and over 37,000 pending asylum cases in the UK according to recent figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). All of these people carry their own stories of leaving their home, and Refugee Week allows us space to listen and learn so we can better understand and value each other.

In partnership with Islington Libraries, Free Word has curated a special range of migrant and refugee stories called ‘Reading From New Places’. This is made up of a diverse range of writers, from Ukraine to Bangladesh, South Africa to Poland. The journeys written about follow different characters as they make their homes in new places.

Get your copy of the book list from Islington Central Library or Finsbury Library throughout late June and July. Choose from over 30 books and authors; from novels to poetry there is a great variety, so take your pick!

We’ve chosen a few of our favourites to help you get started; check out our suggestions below. The full reading list is available here.

The Great Flight, edited by Sarah Dugdale

Poetry by refugees about the plight of refugees and migrants. The collection includes new work by renowned poets such as Ribka Sibhatu and a new translation of a work by Syrian poet Golan Haji.

Burnt Shadows, Kamila Shamsie

Unfolding in four sections, the novel traces the shared histories of two families. As the years unravel, new homes replace those left behind and old wars are seamlessly usurped by new conflicts.

Beautiful Mutants, Deborah Levy

Following the story of Lapinski, the manipulative and magical Russian exile in a contemporary allegory of broken dreams and desires. Exploring exile and displacement the story confronts anxieties of the time.

Red Leaves, Sita Bramachari

Aisha is a thirteen-year-old refugee living in London. When her foster mother announces that a new family that she will be moving on Aisha packs her bags and runs away seeking shelter in the nearby woods.

Refugee Boy, Benhamin Zephaniah

Alem wakes up in a bed and breakfast to find his parents have left him. They thought he would be safer in London away from political problems in Ethiopia. But now Alem is on his own.

Join in the conversation throughout Refugee Week; tell us your suggestions in the comments below or tweet us @FreeWordCentre and Islington Libraries at @Islingtonlibs. We’d love to hear your thoughts.

We’re also holding our own event during Refugee Week that will see writers, poets and newly arrived communities talk about the experience of leaving home and what happens when we arrive in a new place.

Stories of Each Other: Do We Care? takes place on 22 June at Free Word Centre. For more information and to book tickets, click here.

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