Unless you have walked a mile—or hundreds of miles—in a refugee’s shoes, it can be difficult to understand what refugees really go through. Books have the unique ability to take you inside other people’s lives and help you better understand their experiences.
Whether you’re looking for your next novel to read or want share a new tale with your grandchild to help them develop empathy, these amazing books about refugees should be next on your reading list.
Olympic swimmer and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Yusra Mardini had already traveled great distances when she boarded an overcrowded dinghy to Greece. But when she realized the boat she was traveling on had engine problems, she dove into the water and swam for three and a half hours in open water to stop the dinghy from capsizing. That day, Yusra saved the lives of 20 people. You can read more about her incredible journey in her autobiography, Butterfly.
For more incredible stories, check out USA for UNHCR’s nonfiction book list.
Many advocates and refugees have taken to writing to share what life can be like when you have been forced to flee your home. In The Kite Runner, an unlikely friendship forms between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant. Author and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Khaled Hosseini forces the reader to consider the price of betrayal, the possibility of redemption and the power fathers have over their sons.
For more riveting novels like this, check out USA for UNHCR’s fiction book list.
Though the topic is quite serious, stories about refugees are not only for mature audiences. There are many books about refugees that are geared toward teenagers and young adults. Many stories, like A Land of Permanent Goodbyes, center around teenagers themselves. This YA novel tells the story of Tareq, a refugee from Syria who is forced to leave everything he knows behind, facing danger at every turn, after bombs begin falling in his hometown.
For more books suited for young adults, check out USA for UNHCR’s YA book list.
When learning to read independently, there are many kinds of books children can try. In The Night Diary young readers get a look inside the life of 12-year-old Nisha, who is struggling to figure out where she belongs as a half-Muslim, half-Hindu person living in Pakistan.
For more books for school-aged children, check out USA for UNHCR’s school children book list.
You’re never too young to start learning to care for others. Reading books about refugees to young children can help them develop empathy and a better understanding of the world they live in. With the help of a fantasy creature named Ario, My Hero is You explains how children can protect themselves, their families and friends from coronavirus and how to manage difficult emotions when confronted with a new and rapidly changing reality.
For more picture books about refugees for little kids, check out USA for UNHCR’s children’s book list.