The best books about refugees 📚

Browse the best books on refugees as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria

We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria

By Wendy Pearlman

Why this book?

Pearlman expertly, delicately and lovingly assembles elements from the stories and journeys of close to 90 Syrians into a mosaic “mapped onto Syria’s historical trajectory from authoritarianism to revolution, war, and exile” as she explains in the introduction. For me there are echoes of Maalouf’s Origins in this book: More than a hundred years later and Syrians and Levantines are still having to flee their homelands because of tyranny, conflict and political and social upheaval. Pearlman is an accomplished professor at Northwestern University who speaks Arabic and has spent more than 20 years studying and living in the Middle East.…

From the list:

The best books on the people of the Levant region

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Book cover of When Heaven and Earth Changed Places: A Vietnamese Woman's Journey from War to Peace

When Heaven and Earth Changed Places: A Vietnamese Woman's Journey from War to Peace

By Le Ly Hayslip, Jay Wurts

Why this book?

A memoir from the perspective of the other side, this book tells the story of a young girl in Central Vietnam who was recruited into the war and, by her teens, had suffered near-starvation, torture, imprisonment, and more, in addition to losing much of her family. Later she married an American and moved to this country, but since 1986, she has helped rebuild her homeland through the charitable organizations she established. 

From the list:

The best books on the Vietnam war and what it all meant

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Book cover of The Gangster We Are All Looking For

The Gangster We Are All Looking For

By Thi Diem Thuy Le

Why this book?

Lê Thi Diem Thúy’s novel tells the story of a young refugee girl in San Diego. The novel is a lyrical accounting, full of disjointed narrative and poetic language, that captures her thoughts and feelings as a Vietnamese immigrant to San Diego in 1978. Early on in the war, most of the literature was written by soldiers and correspondents and dealt strictly with the military side of the war. Later in the eighties and nineties, the scope and quality of the writing about Vietnam has vastly improved, as different perspectives are brought to bear on the war. Lê Thi Diem…

From the list:

The best literature on the Vietnam War from a female perspective

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Book cover of Voices from the 'Jungle': Stories from the Calais Refugee Camp

Voices from the 'Jungle': Stories from the Calais Refugee Camp

By Calais Writers

Why this book?

Thinking about camps and incarceration brings me to Voices from the ‘Jungle’: Stories from the Calais Refugee Camp. I choose this book because it offers insights into the lives and aspirations of refugees who congregated in the refugee camp in the coastal town of Calais in northern France. As such, it is an antidote to much contemporary reportage of refugees as a faceless and anonymous mass. Their vivid first-person accounts testify to the violence and persecution from which they escaped, whether in Afghanistan, Eritrea, Sudan, or Syria, and their subsequent adventures and odysseys, including endless waiting for official decisions…

From the list:

The best books on the history of migration and refugees

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Book cover of Placeless People: Writings, Rights, and Refugees

Placeless People: Writings, Rights, and Refugees

By Lyndsey Stonebridge

Why this book?

My final choice is a scintillating work of scholarship by Lyndsey Stonebridge, Professor of Humanities and Human Rights at the University of Birmingham. Entitled Placeless People: Writing, Rights, and Refugees, it draws upon a range of reportage, political theory, poetry, and other texts to ask challenging questions about the stance that modern states and citizens in Western societies adopt towards refugees who are sometimes described as distant strangers. By engaging with authors who are relatively well known, such as George Orwell, W.H. Auden, Simone Weil, Samuel Beckett, and the political philosopher Hannah Arendt, and with those who may be…

From the list:

The best books on the history of migration and refugees

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Book cover of France Under Fire: German Invasion, Civilian Flight and Family Survival During World War II

France Under Fire: German Invasion, Civilian Flight and Family Survival During World War II

By Nicole Dombrowski Risser

Why this book?

A more specialized account focused on the role of women, who made up the vast majority of refugees, in petitioning government for civilian protection and assistance before and after the crisis, and their unique experiences on the road. Dombrowski Risser finds that women initiated an expansion of universal human rights in wartime to include refugees' rights. Her insightful and masterfully informed analysis of primary source materials—women's letters to government officials—brings them to life, adding illuminating, and heartrending, substance and texture.

From the list:

The best books on the refugee crisis precipitated by Germany's attack on Western Europe in WW2

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