Introducing The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives

Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Sympathizer Viet Thanh Nguyen called on 17 fellow refugee writers from across the globe to shed light on their experiences, and the result is The Displaced, a powerful dispatch from the individual lives behind current headlines, with proceeds to support the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

Today the world faces an enormous refugee crisis—22.5 million people fleeing persecution and conflict from Myanmar to Syria, closer to the flight of Jewish and other Europeans during World War II than anything the world has seen in this generation. Yet in the United States, United Kingdom, and other countries with the means to welcome refugees, anti-immigration politics and fear seem poised to shut the door. Even for readers seeking to help, the sheer scale of the problem renders the experience of refugees hard to comprehend.

Viet Nguyen, called “one of our great chroniclers of displacement” (Joyce Carol Oates, The New Yorker), brings together writers originally from Mexico, Bosnia, Iran, Afghanistan, Soviet Ukraine, Hungary, Chile, Ethiopia, and others to make their stories heard. They are formidable in their own right—MacArthur Genius grant recipients, National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award finalists, filmmakers, speakers, lawyers, professors, and New Yorker contributors—and they are all refugees, many as children arriving in London and Toronto, Oklahoma and Minnesota, South Africa and Germany. Their 17 contributions are as diverse as their own lives have been, and yet hold just as many themes in common.

Reyna Grande questions the line between “official” refugee and “illegal” immigrant, chronicling the disintegration of the family forced to leave her behind; Fatima Bhutto visits Alejandro Iñárritu’s virtual reality border crossing installation “Flesh and Sand”; Aleksandar Hemon recounts a gay Bosnian’s answer to his question, “How did you get here?”; Thi Bui offers two uniquely striking graphic panels; David Bezmozgis writes about uncovering new details about his past and attending a hearing for a new refugee; and Hmong writer Kao Kalia Yang recalls the courage of children in a camp in Thailand.

These essays reveal moments of uncertainty, resilience in the face of trauma, and a reimagining of identity, forming a compelling look at what it means to be forced to leave home and find a place of refuge. The Displaced is also a commitment: ABRAMS will donate 10 percent of the cover price of this book, a minimum of $25,000 annually, to the International Rescue Committee, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing humanitarian aid, relief, and resettlement to refugees and other victims of oppression or violent conflict.

Abrams Press • 1-4197-2948-9 • $25.00 • April 2018

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Reviews

“In this collection of 17 essays (one consisting of cartoons) by writers who were forced to leave their homes, Viet Thanh Nguyen, a Pulitzer-winning novelist and himself a Vietnamese refugee to America, begins to assemble one. In so doing he gives ordinary Westerners a heart-wrenching insight into the uprooted lives led in their midst…the collection succeeds in demonstrating that this dispersed community in some ways resembles other nations. It has its founding myths, but its citizens all have their own tragedies, victories and pain—and each has a story to tell.”

— The Economist

“The book is being published at a time when discourse around refugees has shifted distressingly in the Trump era, with new caps on refugee settlement being instituted and immigration bans remaining clear policy positions.”

— Entertainment Weekly

“In a decade characterized by massive global displacement that seems likely to grow worse, this collection is both a reminder of the lives altered or destroyed by geopolitical happenings, and a gesture of aid.”

— The Millions

“Each essay is worthwhile.”

— Literary Hub

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