Looking for books on refugee and immigration to read over the holiday break? Yes, that’s a narrow niche, we know. But even if refugee policy isn’t what you think about day and night (like us), these books are great ways to deepen your understanding, especially important in a time of misinformation and fake news. We’ve got a wide-ranging list too, from memoirs to policy issues to a graphic novel. So without further ado, here’s our (somewhat) yearly refugee & immigration book roundup for 2020:

After the Last Border

This compelling narrative follows the journey of two refugee families from their home countries through resettlement in the United States. The story of Hasna from Syria and Mu Naw from Myanmar provide insight into the political situations that even though far apart geographically, have forced massive displacement and suffering. The stories of these two women and their fight for survival is both heartbreaking and hopeful. Woven throughout the narrative is information on refugee resettlement policy from its start through the Trump Era. This is highly recommended for those who already volunteer with refugees to give insight into what the resettlement process is like and how Americans can better come alongside newly arrived families to provide welcome and support.

From the Publisher: “Mu Naw, a Christian from Myanmar struggling to put down roots with her family, was accepted after decades in a refugee camp at a time when America was at its most open to displaced families; and Hasna, a Muslim from Syria, agrees to relocate as a last resort for the safety of her family–only to be cruelly separated from her children by a sudden ban on refugees from Muslim countries.  Writer and activist Jessica Goudeau tracks the human impacts of America’s ever-shifting refugee policy as both women narrowly escape from their home countries and begin the arduous but lifesaving process of resettling in Austin–a city that would show them the best and worst of what America has to offer.”

One Billion Americans

What would make America greater? More people. This is the premise of a provocative new book by Vox cofounder Matthew Yglesias on, at least in part, immigration policy changes that are needed to help America keep its position as a world power. While not about refugees, per say, One Billion Americans lays out a strong case for immigration policy reform and all the needed infrastructure policy changes to support a doubling or tripling of our country’s current population. This book isn’t controversy free. In fact, we disagreed with several parts, including  Yglesias’ assertion that taking in refugees is simply a humanitarian consideration and doesn’t play into a bigger, successful immigration reform. But we still feel this book is important read, as it is a great way to learn some of the wonky policy details on WHY immigration is so important for America’s growth and future well-being. A very readable entry into what can often be a dry and boring genre – government policy!

From the Publisher:  Vox founder Yglesias invites us to think bigger, while taking the problems of decline seriously. What really contributes to national prosperity should not be controversial: supporting parents and children, welcoming immigrants and their contributions, and exploring creativepolicies that support growth…


Refugee for Life: My Journey Across Africa to Find a Place Called Home

“A man in a uniform carrying a gun emerged from the bush. He commanded me to put aside whatever I had in my hands and lay flat…at that moment, I truly believed my life was over.” – For many Americans, the massive and long-lasting conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo doesn’t even register on their news. And yet the violence in this part of the world is STILL causing millions to flee their homes.  Innocent Magambi takes us into the conflict and how the constant upheaval in the DRC took him on the journey that has defined much of his life, the search for a place to call home. An excellent, thought-provoking story. You can learn more about Innocent’s current ministry in Dzaleka Refugee camp, There Is Hope Malawi.

From the Publisher: Innocent candidly tells how his journey shaped his faith in God as he endured profound loss and overwhelming hardship. He also shares how his experience has influenced the mission and values of the refugee agency he founded, There Is Hope.


The Arrival

By author and illustrator Shaun Tan, The Arrival is an almost dreamlike, yet tremendously moving wordless graphic novel. This quirky, imaginative story portrays the struggles with language, food, housing, transport and work faced by immigrants who may come here from radically different or undeveloped countries. Created for tweens & teens, yet the art is so beautiful, even adults will enjoy it. The use of a dystopian, fantasy world to tell the story helps the audience understand the feeling of being an outsider, of being completely confused and yet having to move forward and keep going – an experience that almost all refugees attest to experiencing.

From School Library Journal: Tan captures the displacement and awe with which immigrants respond to their new surroundings in this wordless graphic novel. It depicts the journey of one man, threatened by dark shapes that cast shadows on his family’s life, to a new country. The only writing is in an invented alphabet, which creates the sensation immigrants must feel when they encounter a strange new language and way of life. A wide variety of ethnicities is represented in Tan’s hyper-realistic style, and the sense of warmth and caring for others, regardless of race, age, or background, is present on nearly every page. 

 Do you have favorite reads on refugees or immigration policy from this year? Share them in the comments section. And now…

Enter to win your own copy of The Arrival by Shaun Tan. Our giveaway ends on December 30th, and will shipped to US addresses only. 

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  1. Kandyce Pinckney says:

    Some books that have really helped me understand conflicts, wars, diasporas, and refugee populations around the world:
    – between two worlds by Zainab salbi
    – we crossed a bridge and it trembled – Wendy pearlman
    – city of thorns- Ben rawlence
    – stringer- Anjam sundaram
    – the beautiful things that heaven bears- dinaw mengistu
    – west of Kabul, east of New York- Tamim ansary
    – sewing circles of Herat- Christina lamb
    – revolution 2.0 – Wael ghonim
    – the lemon tree – sandy tolan

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