Ivan reads a book in his great grandparents' home in Kyiv, Ukraine.
© UNHCR/Diana Zeyneb Alhindawi
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Must-read books on refugee experiences

Seven stories of resilience, courage and hope

Books can take us anywhere in the world and allow us to engage deeply with another person’s story. They offers vastly different thoughts and experiences. For refugees and other forcibly displaced people, books are an opportunity to share their unique and untold stories.

Today, there are 114 million people who have been forced to flee their homes due to war, violence or persecution. That’s 114 million unique journeys of courage, determination and resilience. Here are just seven stories that shed light on the experiences of refugees in their search for safety.

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

When war breaks out, Nuri and his wife Afra leave their comfortable lives in Syria and embark on a dangerous journey towards an uncertain future in the United Kingdom. The couple travel through Türkiye and Greece, grappling with the trauma of war and the grief that comes with the loss of their homes and loved ones.

A Man of Two Faces by Viet Thanh Nguyen

In his memoir, Viet Thanh Nguyen explores ideas of colonisation, displacement, memory and identity. Living in America, a teenage Nguyen struggles to find himself as he learns more about his hometown in Vietnam and the life he left behind. Nguyen will be speaking at the Sydney Writers’ Festival this year to share more about his latest book, seeking asylum and the realities of this experience.

Safe Haven by Shankari Chandran

Speaking alongside Nguyen at the Writers’ Festival is Safe Haven author Shankari Chandran. Drawing on her own experiences of seeking asylum, Chandran tells the story of Fina, a Sri Lankan refugee searching for safety in Australia. Over time, Fina becomes a refugee advocate, dedicated to helping vulnerable families held in offshore detention centres.

How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Uwiringyimana

Born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sandra Uwiringyimana fled to America with her family to escape the war. In this memoir, she shares her story of survival, the struggles of finding her place in New York and the role of art and activism in overcoming trauma.

We are Displaced by Malala Yousafzai

In We are Displaced, Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai describes her experience as a displaced person living in Pakistan. She also shares the stories of nine other girls she has met through international activism, who come from countries as diverse as Colombia and Syria. This book highlights the struggles, hopes and dreams of the young girls behind the staggering statistics of forced displacement.

The Lucky Ones by Melinda Ham

This moving book by award-winning journalist and refugee advocate Melinda Ham features powerful stories from refugees who’ve fled their homes and found safety in Australia, offering first-hand accounts of their plight and the complexities of their experiences.

Unknown: A Refugee’s Story by Akuch Kuol Anyieth

Unknown: A Refugee's Story follows Akuch Kuol Anyieth's journey from war-torn South Sudan to Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya and then to Australia. Despite enduring years of hardship, Akuch's resilience shines through as she excels in her studies and navigates her new life in Melbourne. A testament to the strength of family bonds and the power of hope, Unknown is a poignant memoir of survival, determination and love.