Find Every Emotion from Heartbreak to Humour in These 16+ Novels Featuring Refugees in Support of Refugee Week

We stand with Refugee Week, a UK-wide festival from 20-26 June that: "celebrates the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary”. Refugee week was founded in 1998 and is held each year around Word Refugee Day on the 20 June. 

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Refugee Week say: "Through a programme of arts, cultural, sports and educational events alongside media and creative campaigns, Refugee Week enables people from different backgrounds to connect beyond labels, as well as encouraging understanding of why people are displaced, and the challenges they face when seeking safety.  Refugee Week is a platform for people who have sought safety in the UK to share their experiences, perspectives and creative work on their own terms.

Refugee Week’s vision is for refugees and asylum seekers to be able to live safely within inclusive and resilient communities, where they can continue to make a valuable contribution.

Refugee Week is an umbrella festival, and anyone can get involved by holding or joining an event or activity. Refugee Week events happen in all kinds of different spaces and range from arts festivals, exhibitions, film screenings and museum tours to football tournaments, public talks and activities in schools. Refugee Week is a partnership project coordinated and managed by Counterpoints Arts. Our national partners are listed here."

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In support of Refugee Week, we have selected a wide range of novels featuring refugees, they range in setting, both in terms of place and time. Throughout history people from all of the world have for a variety of reasons left their homes needing sanctuary. Here you can find haunting historical novels, or a stunningly powerful fantasy, while modern and contemporary fiction hammers home. All emotions are on offer, from heartbreak to humour. Do step in and allow yourself to truly feel these beautiful novels as they encourage you to connect to the word, to the feelings, to what it is to be a refugee. 

A Long Petal of the Sea

A Long Petal of the Sea

Author: Isabel Allende Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/03/2021

An incredibly engaging, fascinating, and rather beautiful read, this book will stay with me for some time. A couple seek refuge after the Spanish Civil War and end up in Chile, where years later they again face exile. Covering the period from 1938 through to 1994, this is a story that crosses continents, examines topics such as fascism, war, and migration, yet is as intimate as intimate can be. I entered and thought no more about the fact that this was translated from Spanish by Nick Caister and Amanda Hopkinson, it is so clearly, simply, and fabulously done. Within the first few pages there were tears in my eyes. I couldn’t stop reading, thoughtful and sensitive, yet not afraid to focus on unbearable sorrow, this feels as though it could be a biography. As Isabelle Allende explains in the acknowledgments, while this is a novel, with fictional characters (though based on people she has known), the historical events and people are real. She says: “This book wrote itself, as if it had been dictated to me” and I truly felt that. A Long Petal of the Sea opened my eyes and my heart, and has left me wanting to know more. Coming as highly recommended by me, it has also been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book.

Star Books
In Every Mirror She's Black

In Every Mirror She's Black

Author: Lola Akinmade Akerstrom Format: Hardback Release Date: 21/10/2021

Through the finely-nuanced narratives of three Black women from very different backgrounds, Lola Akinmade Åkerström's In Every Mirror She’s Black is a remarkable feat of fiction. Teeming with hope, desire, struggle and love, this powerful page-turner pulls no punches as its engagingly three-dimensional characters strive for better lives in a world that makes it anything but easy for them to be themselves. It also dismantles any notion of there being a monolithic Black culture, and lays bare the unjust multiple standards by which Black women are judged - and all this through dazzling story-telling that will leave readers desperate to read the author’s next novel. The three female protagonists are linked by one wealthy man - Jonny Lundin, born into one of Sweden’s most privileged families, and CEO of the country’s biggest marketing company. Bored and frustrated by work, and by the men she meets on US dating apps, award-winning marketing executive Kemi is ripe for change when Jonny invites her to become his new Director of Global Diversity and Inclusion. While on a flight to woo Kemi from America to Stockholm, Jonny encounters Brittany, a former model who now works as a first-class flight attendant. Initially dismissive of Jonny’s attention, she finds herself drawn to him - he seems to worship the ground she walks on, and lavishes her with unimaginable devotion and wealth. Then there’s refugee Muna, who lost her mother and younger brother during a treacherous sea crossing, and now works as a cleaner in Jonny’s office, while dreaming of becoming an accountant and having a group of good friends. True to life, the women variously make mistakes, face excruciating decisions, and long to feel fulfilled. Their finely-drawn stories are equally as engaging as they struggle to feel at home in a city that’s supposedly egalitarian, but turns out to be rife with implicit racism, tokenism, and injurious stereotyping. Riveting, moving and stirring (with punch-packing endings you won’t see coming), In Every Mirror She’s Black is a magnificent must-read.

Debut Books of the Month
All the Seas of the World

All the Seas of the World

Author: Guy Gavriel Kay Format: Hardback Release Date: 17/05/2022

With echoes of the Renaissance Guy Gavriel Kay brings intrigue, revenge, war, and exile face to face with love, friendship, and hope. This powerful and striking story begins with those tasked with an assassination, and grows to encompass many more people and places. Here we continue on in the times from A Brightness Long Ago featuring new as well as previously met characters. If you’ve not yet stepped foot into this particular world (not all of his novels are from these lands), then the quality of writing is such that you can most certainly read All the Seas of the World as a standalone. Please do though visit past books as not only are there truly beautiful stories to discover and the obvious connection to the previous novel, there are other whispers too from longer ago. The map had me poring over memories, and within the list of principal characters I welcomed old friends. While I immediately felt a sense of coming home, my emotions were hung above a sharpened knife edge. The narrator, occasionally present, sits in overview, words sinking into thoughts and feelings, and a little way in I met one particular friend from Brightness who again spoke directly to me. I folded into and around a story that boldly and brilliantly ventures onto the seas. I particularly loved the small slices of individual lives and how they knitted together and influenced the larger scale events. The most inconsequential moment could seem momentous as it formed around one person. It felt as though both history, the present, and the future was being told. Just as a little aside, I have been reading Guy Gavriel Kay’s novels since I tipped into my twenties. He is one of two authors who I count as being hugely positive influences, and from my late teens on I have been able to trust in their integrity, empathy, and principles as I read. You can probably tell from my thoughts and feelings about All The Seas of the World, that I still hold Guy Gavriel Kay’s writing in the highest regard and this new book will sit as a particular favourite. His words, they really make my emotions sing, and that was certainly the case here. So it will come as no surprise that All the Seas of the World sits as a LoveReading Star Book and Liz Pick for its month of publication, it also comes with a standing ovation from me.

Star Books
The End of Time

The End of Time

Author: Gavin Extence Format: Paperback Release Date: 09/01/2020

A lovely, heartfelt, oh so readable and occasionally quirky story containing huge empathy and thoughtfulness. Two teenagers, refugees without their parents, set off from Syria in the hopes of reaching the UK. I am a huge fan of Gavin Extence, as he has the ability to write with an incredibly light touch while exploring hugely provocative topics. His books often contain a waft of magic, not hocus pocus exactly, but something that makes you stop and think. The story here is told by 19-year-old Zain, older brother to 14-year-old Mohammed, and we meet them as they begin the swim from Turkey to Greece. Simply told, the words hit my thoughts with hammer-hard intensity, and yet there were smiles on hand too. There is a gentle compassion to be found in Zain, and as I read, I took him, and his football-loving brother to my heart. All I will say about the third absolutely fabulous character in this tale is that I won’t forget him! ‘The End of Time’ doesn’t preach, it lets you discover thoughts and feelings for yourself, it just exists, as it is, as the most wonderfully compelling and beautiful story. I have chosen ‘The End of Time’ as one of my Liz Robinson picks of the month - it has a massive tick in the 'fabulous read' box from me. Gavin Extence is our author in the picture for July 2019, do take a look at the photos he chose in answer to our questions. Read our Putting Authors in the Picture blog post with Gavin.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
We Are Displaced

We Are Displaced

Author: Malala Yousafzai Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/03/2021

In this powerful and emotional New York Times bestseller, Nobel Peace Prize winner and activist Malala Yousafzai shares various stories of displacement, including her own. Part memoir, part communal storytelling, We Are Displaced introduces readers to some of the incredible girls Malala has met on her many journeys and lets each tell her story - girls who have lost their community, relatives and often the only world they've ever known, but have not lost hope. Longing for home and fear of an uncertain future binds all of these young women, but each is unique. In a time of immigration crises, war and border conflicts, We Are Displaced is an important reminder that every single one of the 79.5 million currently displaced is a person - often a young person - with dreams for a better, safer world.

The Exiled

The Exiled

Author: Kati Hiekkapelto Format: Paperback Release Date: 10/10/2016

A compelling, assured and gutsy crime thriller set in Serbia among the refugee crisis. Anna returns to the borders of Hungary and Serbia for a holiday, there she finds herself in the middle of a dangerous investigation with chilling links to her own family. Kati Hiekkapelto allows information to wait, just out of sight, and then releases it to swirl, linger and provoke. Each new surprise ensured my opinion of Anna altered as I read, my attention was ensnared further, and I became completely absorbed by this tension filled read. With red herrings slipping through the story line, and an absolutely fascinating location, ‘The Exiled’ is a gripping and stimulating read. ~ Liz Robinson

eBooks of the Month
What is the What

What is the What

Author: Dave Eggers Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/07/2008

What is the What is Dave Eggers's astonishing novel about one of the world's most brutal civil wars Valentino Achak Deng is just a boy when conflict separates him from his family and forces him to leave his small Sudanese village, joining thousands of other orphans on their long, long walk to Ethiopia, where they find safety - for a time. Along the way Valentino encounters enemy soldiers, liberation rebels and deadly militias, hyenas and lions, disease and starvation. But there are experiences ahead that will test his spirit in even greater ways than these . . . Truly epic in scope, and told with expansive humanity, deep compassion and unexpected humour, What is the What is an eye-opening account of life amid the madness of war and an unforgettable tale of tragedy and triumph.

The Bone Sparrow A Refugee Novel

The Bone Sparrow A Refugee Novel

Author: Zana Fraillon Format: Paperback Release Date: 12/01/2017

Shortlisted for the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize 2016  | In a Nutshell: Refugees | Resilience | Friendship  A heartfelt, harrowing insight into life as a Rohingya refugee in an Australian detention centre, told through the unforgettable voice of an unforgettable boy. Subhi is one of the Limbo kids in a permanent Australian detention centre, the first to be born in the camp after his Maá and big sister Queeny fled violent persecution in Burma. While he’s only experienced life within the cruel confines of the camp, Subhi’s rich imagination has conjured a magical, solace-giving world in which the Night Sea from his Maá’s tales brings him treasures from his dad. Stories are Subhi’s lifeline. He needs them “to make my memories” and imagines a blanket of stories, a “gigantic blanket big enough to warm everyone”. A new story treasure transforms Subhi’s world in the form of Jimmie, a local girl who finds her way into the camp. She too knows heartache. She’s lost her mum, who used to tell her special tales and gave her a bone sparrow necklace that “carried the souls of all her family”. When Jimmie enters Subhi’s life, he wonders if she’s his guardian angel, though he hadn't expected an angel to have more holes in her clothes than him. And, on meeting Subhi, Jimmie realises that she’s “never had a friend she wanted to share everything with before”, and so she shares her mum’s stories with him, stories he reads to her since she’s unable to read them herself. Subhi's unique voice will weave its way into your heart and under your skin. His descriptions of life in the centre are hauntingly evocative. You feel, for example, the heat of days that get his “skin creeping” and make everything “jangly and loud and scratchy”. Through Subhi, readers experience how it might feel to have no home or voice, and how friendship can lighten the darkest of circumstances. One hopes, as Subhi’s Maá says, that “someday they see we belong.” Both elegant and raw, this is an important and timely novel that bears witness to the risks people take to make their voice heard, and to the resilience of the human spirit. ~ Joanne Owen Zana Fraillon felt compelled to write her novel The Bone Sparrow because she could not ignore the millions of people who were being forcibly displaced and the millions of children missing out on a childhood. Zana comments, “The Bone Sparrow was written so we remember the people behind the statistics. Those 65 million stories waiting to be told, those 33 million children wondering if their futures will ever be realised. It was written so we can find the courage to stand for humanity, and the wisdom to imagine a different world. It was written so we may all live in hope.” Guardian Children's Fiction Prize Judge SF Said: “Moving and memorable, The Bone Sparrow deserves to be read by all who care about our common humanity.”

eBooks of the Month
Ashes

Ashes

Author: Christopher de Vinck Format: Paperback Release Date: 20/08/2020

A thoughtful, stirring, and compassionate historical novel set during World War Two. Simone, the daughter of a Belgian First World War hero is best friends with Hava from a devout Jewish family, together they flee the advancing Nazi army in 1940. Inspired by the experiences of the author’s family members in Belgium, this is essentially a tale of what should be an uncomplicated friendship sitting within one of the most complex and horrifying times in world history. Author Christopher de Vinck introduced the reasons behind this book before Simone’s prologue slammed into my contemplations. Each chapter epigraph includes excerpts and memories that really do spread chills. It is interesting to note that those unattributed are from the author’s grandfather who was awarded the Croix de Guerre for bravery and was in the Belgian Resistance before being captured. Christopher de Vinck brings the girls to vibrant life by noting the small things that make each of us unique. He doesn’t sit in judgement, he releases the horror and emotion of the full story, with lost innocence spearing awareness and encouraging my own thoughts to form. Ashes (what a penetrating title that is), is a provocative read and yet also full of love.

Debut Books of the Month
Afterparties

Afterparties

Author: Anthony Veasna So Format: Ebook Release Date: 19/08/2021

Seamlessly transitioning between the absurd and the tender-hearted, balancing acerbic humour with sharp emotional depth, Afterparties offers an expansive portrait of the lives of Cambodian-Americans. As the children of refugees carve out radical new paths for themselves in California, they shoulder the inherited weight of the Khmer Rouge genocide and grapple with the complexities of race, sexuality, friendship and family. A high school badminton coach and failing grocery store owner tries to relive his glory days by beating a rising star teenage player. Two drunken brothers attend a wedding afterparty and hatch a plan to expose their shady uncle's snubbing of the bride and groom. A queer love affair sparks between an older tech entrepreneur trying to launch a 'safe space' app and a disillusioned young teacher obsessed with Moby-Dick. And in the sweeping final story, a nine-year-old child learns that his mother survived a racist school shooter. With nuanced emotional precision, gritty humour and compassionate insight into the intimacy of queer and immigrant communities, the stories in Afterparties deliver an explosive introduction to the work of Anthony Veasna So.

eBooks of the Month
We Are All Birds of Uganda

We Are All Birds of Uganda

Author: Hafsa Zayyan Format: Paperback Release Date: 27/01/2022

'You can't stop birds from flying, can you, Sameer? They go where they will...' 1960s UGANDA. Hasan is struggling to run his family business following the sudden death of his wife. Just as he begins to see a way forward, a new regime seizes power, and a wave of rising prejudice threatens to sweep away everything he has built. Present-day LONDON. Sameer, a young high-flying lawyer, senses an emptiness in what he thought was the life of his dreams. Called back to his family home by an unexpected tragedy, Sameer begins to find the missing pieces of himself not in his future plans, but in a past he never knew. Moving between two continents and several generations over a troubled century, We Are All Birds of Uganda is a multi-layered, moving and immensely resonant novel of love, loss, and what it means to find home. It is the first work of fiction by Hafsa Zayyan, co-winner of the inaugural #Merky Books New Writers' Prize, and one of the most exciting young novelists of today. 

Books of the Month
Exit West

Exit West

Author: Mohsin Hamid Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/03/2017

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017.  An extraordinary story of love and hope from the bestselling, Man Booker-shortlisted author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist. In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, Saeed and Nadia lock eyes across their classroom. After a while, they talk, he makes her smile and they start to fall in love. They try not to notice the sound of bombs getting closer every night, the radio announcing new laws, the curfews and the public executions. Eventually the problem is too big to ignore: it’s not safe for Nadia to live alone and she must move in with Saeed, even though they are not married, and that too is a problem. Meanwhile, rumours are spreading of strange black doors in secret places across the city, doors that lead to London or San Francisco, Greece or Dubai. One day soon the time will come for Nadia and Saeed to seek out one such door, joining the great outpouring of those fleeing a collapsing city, hoping against hope, looking for their place in the world.

eBooks of the Month
An Act of Love

An Act of Love

Author: Carol Drinkwater Format: Paperback Release Date: 29/04/2021

A dramatic and enthralling relationship tale that captures emotion and takes you on a journey through the Second World War. When Sara and her parents flee their homeland taking refuge in the French Alps, the full impact of the Nazi oppression edges ever closer. Inspired by her visit to a small museum in the Lower Alps Carol Drinkwater has created the most captivating story of young love, and the courage needed to face the most devastating of times. She has the ability to focus on the things that make us human, to create a link that alters the focus from watching, to actually feeling the events that take place. A balance is created between the intimate moments of relationships and how they sit within the wider fields of battle during the horror of war. This is ultimately as much a story about Sara’s own relationship with, and understanding of herself as it is with the man she falls in love with. The ending came with beautiful words and tears welling up in my eyes, I just had to include this as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month. An Act of Love will encourage emotions to dip and soar as it gives hope even in the darkness. The LoveReading LitFest invited Carol to the festival to talk about An Act of Love. The digitally native, all year round, online literature and books festival, with new content released every week is a free-for-all-users festival. What are you waiting for? Check out a preview of the event and sign up to become a member. 

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
The Refugees

The Refugees

Author: Viet Thanh Nguyen Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/02/2018

In The Refugees, Viet Thanh Nguyen gives voice to lives led between two worlds, the adopted homeland and the country of birth. From a young Vietnamese refugee who suffers profound culture shock when he comes to live with two gay men in San Francisco, to a woman whose husband is suffering from dementia and starts to confuse her for a former lover, to a girl living in Ho Chi Minh City whose older half-sister comes back from America having seemingly accomplished everything she never will, the stories are a captivating testament to the dreams and hardships of immigration. The second piece of fiction by a major new voice, The Refugees is a beautifully written and sharply observed book about the aspirations of those who leave one country for another, and the relationships and desires for self-fulfillment that define our lives.

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars

Author: Yaba Badoe Format: Hardback Release Date: 07/09/2017

In a Nutshell: Circus girl searches for roots amidst real-world cruelties  A dazzlingly powerful kaleidoscope of magic realism, folklore and the brutalities of people-trafficking in which a fourteen-year-old circus girl seeks to uncover her identity.  As a baby, Sante was washed up with a chest containing a bamboo flute and a leopard skin drum, and welcomed into Mama Rose’s travelling circus. Fourteen years later, still haunted by dreams of the sinking ship, and of those who furnished her with special objects to see her through life, Sante recognises two people from her dreams during a performance. “It's her all right. She plays just like Mamadou used to”, one of them remarks. But how do these people know her? Why does she dream of them? And who is Mamadou? Reluctant at first, Mama Rose reveals that Sante’s trunk also contained other treasures, including a note from her mother. With the strangers set on claiming Sante’s riches, she and snake charmer Cobra decide to discover the truth for themselves. Throughout, Sante’s story sings with the hauntingly potent voice of the human spirit as it combines timely, poignant truths about refugees with timeless storytelling. This really is a triumphant, thought-provoking treasure trove of a novel.  ~ Joanne Owen

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

Author: Michael Chabon Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/07/2001

Winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, 'The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay' is a heart-wrenching story of escape, love and comic-book heroes set in Prague, New York and the Arctic - from the author of 'Wonder Boys'. One night in 1939, Josef Kavalier shuffles into his cousin Sam Clay's cramped New York bedroom, his nerve-racking escape from Prague finally achieved. Little does he realise that this is the beginning of an extraordinary friendship and even more fruitful business partnership. Together, they create a comic strip called 'The Escapist', its superhero a Nazi-busting saviour who liberates the oppressed around the world. 'The Escapist' makes their fortune, but Joe can think of only one thing: how can he effect a real-life escape, and free his family from the tyranny of Hitler? Michael Chabon's exceptional novel is a thrilling tight-rope walk between high comedy and bitter tragedy, and confirms his position as one of the most inventive and daring of contemporary American writers. In Joe Kavalier and Sam Clay, he has created two unforgettable characters bound together by love, family and cartoons.

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