January Book Recommendations: Refugees & Immigration

Starting 2020 with a resolution to read more? You’re in good company! Lots of us make plans to add more reading to our schedule in the new year. Reading is so important. It helps us avoid the very narrow talking points that we find in the media, and instead learn to see important issues from a wider perspective.

But in all honesty, no matter how much you want to read, the challenge is to keep it up with this particular New Year’s Goal. Here’s a few ways to carve out more time in your month for reading:

  • Less social media.

  • Don’t pick up that phone and mindlessly scroll Instagram or Facebook. Instead, pick up a book! Even adding an just extra 10-15 minutes of reading a few days a week will be more beneficial than spending it glued to your phone screen. It’s a better example for your kids too…
  • Add in audiobooks.

  • Driving in the car? Listen to an audiobook. Washing dishes or folding laundry? Listen to an audiobook. Engaging in any mindless task? Listen to an audiobook. They’re so easy, and now with the rise of many local libraries offering digital audiobook downloads, what’s your excuse? This is an EASY way to read more.

Read together.

Have a book-loving friend or two? You don’t need to start a formal book club to read together. Instead, decide on what book you want to work on and keep each other accountable via phone calls or texts. Share your favorite quotes. Throw out questions you have about what you read. It’s all about both camaraderie and accountability, which will help you read more!

How to read more in 2020

Okay, so those were our ideas for how to read more in 2020. Now on to some book suggestions for January:

  • First They Erased Our Name, by¬†Habiburahman.

  • Written by a Rohingya refugee, this book chronicles the plight of the Rohingyas of Myanmar through the personal story of its author. I’d read many news articles about what the Rohingya are facing, but Habiburahman’s story wrecked me. It took the situation from a factual understanding to instead seeing how the crisis has unfolded via a man who is living through it. You feel the pressure as the government restrictions begin to tighten in Rahkine state. You understand the terror of his parents as they go to any length to protect their children. You feel the sting of unwarranted prejudice. The frustrating helplessness just builds as the story progresses, for not only can Habiburahman not find safety in Myanamar, but when he flees to other countries, he is faced over and over again with the stigma of being undocumented and the always looming threat of being repatriated to Myanmar and thus certain death. Even now, in Australia with a measure of safety and stability, his immigration status is uncertain. Highly recommended read.

The God Who Sees: Immigrants, the Bible, and the Journey to Belong, by Karen Gonzalez.

This is an essential book for those who want to harmonize their views on immigration with what the Bible says. Gonzalez is herself an immigrant from Guatemala, so as she works through the Bible, she interweaves parts of her own story and experience, providing a needed insight into the immigrant experience. Her look at immigrants in the Bible, including Ruth, Abraham, Hagar, and Joseph, helps us see familiar Bible stories through a different lens. She helps us look beyond the label “immigrant” to see the Imago Dei in each person. Each chapter also includes questions for discussion and reflection. The author DOES stake out a position, but she does so in a humble, loving way. Definitely a thought-provoking read.

The Newcomers by Helen Thorpe

The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom by Helen Thorpe

Welcome to Room 142 – the ESL classroom taught by Mr. Williams,¬† as he helps newly re-settled refugees learn English and adapt to life in America. These newcomers, from fourteen to nineteen years old, come from nations wrecked by famine or war. Many come directly from refugee camps. Some arrive alone, having left or lost every other member of their original family.Their stories and their journeys are gut-wrenching and painful, but also inspiring and beautiful. Denver-based journalist Helen Thorpe sat in this classroom for a year, getting to know Mr. Williams, as well as his students and their stories. During that year, she finds herself drawn into another world as her own pre-conceived notions and ideas are challenged and remade. At one point, she became so curious about the situation in the Congo that she even ended up travelling to the DRC to learn more about what life was like in the warzone and why so many Congolese were fleeing. Beautifully written and engaging, you can’t help be impressed by all Mr. Williams goes through to both educate and invest in his students. It might even inspire you to go volunteer in an ESL classroom!

And that’s our January good book round-up to help you start to read more this year! Do you have any to add? Or have you read one of these books and want to share your own review? Feel free to comment below with your thoughts.

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