Since 2001, June 20th has been observed internationally as World Refugee Day in an effort to raise awareness about the plight of refugees. Each day, civilians are forced to leave their homes because of violence, persecution, or natural disasters. They make the courageous decision to seek safety far from home, even when what the future holds is uncertain. Listen through these five incredible stories—some fictional, some not—about the difficulty of being immersed in vastly new cultures while maintaining love for one’s homeland and people.
Growing up in rural El Salvador in the wake of the civil war, the United States was a distant fantasy to identical twins Ernesto and Raul Floresâ€”until, at age seventeen, a deadly threat from the regionâ€™s brutal gangs forces them to flee the only home theyâ€™ve ever known. In this urgent chronicle of contemporary immigration, journalist Lauren Markham follows the Flores twins as they make their way across the Rio Grande and the Texas desert, into the hands of immigration authorities, and from there to their estranged older brother in Oakland, CA.The Far Away Brothers
Clemantine Wamariya was six years old when her mother and father began to speak in whispers, when neighbors began to disappear, and when she heard the loud, ugly sounds her brother said were thunder. In 1994, she and her fifteen-year-old sister, Claire, fled the Rwandan massacre and spent the next six years migrating through seven African countries. When Clemantine was twelve, she and her sister were granted refugee status in the United States; there, in Chicago, their lives diverged. In The Girl Who Smiled Beads, Clemantine provokes us to look beyond the label of â€śvictimâ€ť and recognize the power of the imagination to transcend even the most profound injuries and aftershocks. Devastating yet beautiful, and bracingly original, it is a powerful testament to her commitment to constructing a life on her own terms.The Girl Who Smiled Beads
An Iranian girl escapes to America as a child, but her father stays behind. Over twenty years, as she transforms from confused immigrant to overachieving Westerner to sophisticated European transplant. Meanwhile, refugees of all nationalities are flowing into Europe under troubling conditions. Wanting to help, but also looking for a lost sense of home, our grown-up transplant finds herself quickly entranced by a world that is at once everything she has missed and nothing that she has ever known. Will her immersion in the lives of these new refugees allow her the grace to save her father? Refuge charts the deeply moving lifetime relationship between a father and a daughter, seen through the prism of global immigration. Refuge: A Novel
In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meetâ€”sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doorsâ€”doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.Exit West
In 1980, a rural Cuban family is torn apart during the Mariel Boatlift. Uxbal EncarnaciĂłnâ€”father, husband, political insurgentâ€”refuses to leave behind the revolutionary ideals and lush tomato farms of his sun-soaked homeland. His wife Soledad takes young Isabel and Ulises hostage and flees with them to America, leaving behind Uxbal for the promise of a better life. But instead of settling with fellow Cuban immigrants in Miamiâ€™s familiar heat, Soledad pushes further north into the stark, wintry landscape of Hartford, Connecticut. There, in the long shadow of their estranged patriarch, now just a distant memory, the exiled mother and her children begin a process of growth and transformation. Breathtaking, soulful, and profound, The Mortifications is an intoxicating family saga and a timely, urgent expression of longing for one’s true homeland.Exit West