Book Picks: Refugee Awareness Month

Refugee Awareness Month

June is Refugee Awareness Month, and June 20, 2021 is World Refugee Day. People are encouraged to celebrate refugees, their journeys, and the ways they make the communities they resettle in a better place. Our Book Chat team has helped put together lists of books about refugees and their stories on both our Recommended Reads page and our Community page. Check out the list below to learn more as well!


Adult Fiction

A Long Petal of the Sea


A Long Petal of the Sea, by Isabel Allende
In the late 1930s, civil war grips Spain. When General Franco and his Fascists succeed in overthrowing the government, hundreds of thousands are forced to flee in a treacherous journey over the mountains to the French border. Among them is Roser, a pregnant young widow, who finds her life intertwined with that of Victor Dalmau, an army doctor and the brother of her deceased love. In order to survive, the two must unite in a marriage neither of them desires.


Map of Salt and Stars


The Map of Salt and Stars, by Zeyn Joukhadar
This novel is to Syria what The Kite Runner was to Afghanistan; the story of two girls living 800 years apart: a modern-day Syrian refugee seeking safety and a medieval adventurer apprenticed to a legendary mapmaker. Following alternating timelines and a pair of unforgettable heroines coming of age in perilous times, The Map of Salt and Stars is the epic story of one girl telling herself the legend of another and learning that, if you listen to your own voice, some things can never be lost.


If You Leave Me


If You Leave Me, by Crystal Hana Kim
When the communist-backed army from the north invades her home, sixteen-year-old Haemi Lee and her family are forced to flee to a refugee camp. For a few hours each night, she escapes her family's makeshift home and tragic circumstances with her childhood friend, Kyunghwan.

Focused on finishing school, Kyunghwan doesn't realize his older and wealthier cousin, Jisoo, has his sights set on the beautiful and spirited Haemi. But as Haemi becomes a wife and mother, her decision to forsake the boy she always loved for securty sets off a dramatic saga that will have profound effects for generations to come.


Adult Nonfiction

This is What American Looks Like


This is What America Looks Like, by Ilhan Omar
Congresswoman Omar has weathered many political storms and yet maintained her signature grace, wit and love of country - all the while speaking up for her beliefs. In chronicling her remarkable personal journey, Ilhan is both lyrical and unsentimental. As a result, This is What America Looks Like is both the inspiring coming of age story of a refugee and a multidimensional tale of the hopes and aspirations, disappointments and failures, successes, sacrifices and surprises, of a devoted public servant with unshakable faith in the promise of America.


After the last Border

After the Last Border, by Jessica Goudeau
After the Last Border is an intimate look at the lives of two women as they struggle for the twenty-first century American dream, having won the "golden ticket" to settle as refugees in Austin, Texas. The book situates a dramatic, character-driven story within a larger history--the evolution of modern refugee resettlement in the United States, beginning with World War II and ending with current closed-door policies--revealing not just how America's changing attitudes toward refugees have influenced policies and laws, but also the profound effect on human lives.


A is for Asylum Seeker


A is for Asylum Seeker/A de Asilo, by Rachel Buff
A timely antidote to this circus, A is for Asylum Seeker reframes key words that describe people on the move. Written to correct the de-meaning of terms by rhetoric and policies based on dehumanization and profitable incarceration, this glossary provides grounded consideration of the words deployed in enflamed debate. Skipping some letters of the alphabet while repeating others, thirty terms cover everything from Asylum-seeker to Zero Tolerance Policy. The book balances terms affected by current political debates, such as "migrant," "refugee," and "illegal alien,” and terms that offer historical context to these controversies, such as "fugitive," "unhoused," and "vagrant."



Refugee 87


Refugee 87, by Ele Fountain
Shif has a happy life, unfamiliar with the horrors of his country's regime. He is one of the smartest boys in school, and feels safe and loved in the home he shares with his mother and little sister, right next door to his best friend. But the day that soldiers arrive at his door, Shif knows that he will never be safe again -- his only choice is to run. Facing both unthinkable cruelty and boundless kindness, Shif bravely makes his way towards a future he can barely imagine.


The Lines We Cross


The Lines We Cross, by Randa Abdel-Fattah
Michael likes to hang out with his friends. His parents drag him to rallies held by their anti-immigrant group, which rails against the tide of refugees flooding the country. It all makes sense to Michael. Until Mina, a beautiful girl from the other side of the protest lines, shows up at his school, and turns out to be funny, smart -- and a Muslim refugee from Afghanistan. As tensions rise, lines are drawn. Michael has to decide where he stands. Mina has to protect herself and her family. Both have to choose what they want their world to look like.




Manuelito, by Elisa Amado
Thirteen-year-old Manuelito lives with his family in a tiny village in the Guatemalan countryside. But life is far from idyllic. Things deteriorate further when government-backed drug gangs arrive and take control of the village. Fearing their son will be forced to join a gang, Manuelito's parents send him to live with his aunt in America.

With just a bus ticket and a small amount of cash in hand, Manuelito begins his hazardous journey to Mexico, then the U.S. But the dangers Manuelito faces on his journey may be nothing compared to the risks Manuelito faces when he finally reaches America.


Middle Grades

When Stars are Scattered


When Stars are Scattered, by Victoria Jamieson
Omar and his brother, Hassan, have spent most of their lives in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. Life is hard there: never enough food, achingly dull, and without access to the medical care Omar knows his nonverbal brother needs. So when Omar has the opportunity to go to school, he knows it might be a chance to change their future... but it would also mean leaving his brother every day.

Heartbreak, hope, and gentle humor exist together in this story of a young man who creates a sense of family and home in the most difficult of settings.


Land of the Crane


Land of the Cranes, by Aida Salazar
Nine-year-old Betita knows she is a crane. Papi has told her the story, even before her family fled to Los Angeles to seek refuge from cartel wars in Mexico. The Aztecs came from a place called Aztlan, what is now the Southwest US, called the land of the cranes. Then one day, Betita's beloved father is arrested by Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) and deported to Mexico. Betita and her pregnant mother are left behind on their own, but soon they too are detained and must learn to survive in a family detention camp outside of Los Angeles.


Santiago's Road Home


Santiago’s Road Home, by Alexandra Diaz
The coins in Santiago's hand are meant for the bus fare back to his abusive abuela's house. Except he refuses to return; he won't be missed. His future is uncertain until he meets the kind, maternal María Dolores and her young daughter, Alegría, who help Santiago decide what comes next: He will accompany them to el otro lado, the United States of America. None of the three travelers realizes that the journey through Mexico to the border is just the beginning of their story.


Early Readers

Hear My Voice


Hear My Voice, by Warren Binford
Every day, children in migration are detained at the US-Mexico border. They are scared, alone, and their lives are in limbo. Hear My Voice/Escucha mi voz  shares the stories of 61 these children, from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Ecuador, and Mexico, ranging in age from five to seventeen--in their own words from actual sworn testimonies. Befitting the spirit of the project, the book is in English on one side; then flip it over, and there's a complete Spanish version.




Mexique, by Maria Jose Ferrada
On May 27, 1937, over four hundred children sailed for Morelia, Mexico, fleeing the violence of the Spanish Civil War. This was just a short trip, an extra-long summer vacation, they thought. But the war did not end in a few months, and the children stayed in Mexico. When the war finally ended, a dictator ruled Spain. This moving book invites readers onto the Mexique with the "children of Morelia," many of whom never returned to Spain. Poignant and poetically told, Mexique opens important conversations about hope, resilience, and the lives of displaced people in the past and today.


Idriss and His Marble


Idriss and His Marble, by Rene Gouichoux
When war threatens their home, Idriss and his mother must flee. He clutches his lucky charm--a single marble--throughout their journey, walking over hazardous terrain, crawling under barbed wire, and sailing on a fragile little boat. Will the marble's luck help them avoid capture and bring them to the safety of a new world? A heartfelt tale exploring the perilous path refugees often walk to find a new home and the hope it takes to get them there.



Home is In Between


Home is In Between, by Mitali Perkins
Shanti misses the warm monsoon rains in India. Now in America, she watches fall leaves fly past her feet.

Still, her family's apartment feels like a village: Mama cooking luchi, funny stories in Bangla, and Baba's big laugh. But outside, everything is different - trick-or-treating, ballet class, and English books.

Back and forth, Shanti trudges between her two worlds. She remembers her village and learns her new town. She watches Bollywood movies at home and Hollywood movies with her friends. She is Indian. She is also American. How should she define home?


Lubna and Pebble


Lubna and Pebble, by Wendy Meddour
In an unforgettable story that subtly addresses the refugee crisis, a young girl must decide if friendship means giving up the one item that brings her comfort during a time of utter uncertainty.

Lubna's best friend is a pebble. Pebble always listens to her stories. Pebble always smiles when she feels scared. But when a lost little boy arrives in the World of Tents, Lubna realizes that he needs Pebble even more than she does.

This emotionally stirring and stunningly illustrated picture book explores one girl's powerful act of friendship in the midst of an unknown situation.


Paper Boat


The Paper Boat, by Thao Lam
At her home in Vietnam, a girl rescues ants from the sugar water set out to trap them. Later, when the girl's family flees war-torn Vietnam, ants lead them through the moonlit jungle to the boat that will take them to safety. Before boarding, the girl folds a paper boat from a bun wrapper and drops it into the water, and the ants climb on. Their perilous journey, besieged by punishing weather, predatory birds, and dehydration, before reaching a new beginning, make this a one-of-a-kind tale of courage, resilience, and hope.

Published on June 07, 2021
Last Modified June 21, 2021