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A Well-Founded Fear: Memoirs of Refugees, in Recognition of World Refugee Day, June 20


"It is not my deeds that I write down, it is myself, my essence."
Michel de Montaigne, Essays

They say that the Information Age has passed; we are now in the Age of the Story. The story of one's life can not only captivate, but also educate. These stories of refugees explain bits of the world for the rest of us as seen through the eyes of those who were there — wherever there was — and had to leave because of "...a well-founded fear..."

Across Many Mountains: A Memoir. Yangzon Brauen. Translated from the German by Katy Derbyshire. St. Martin's Press, 2011. The Swiss-Tibetan author writes tenderly of her mother's and grandmother's escape from Chinese-occupied Tibet across the Himalayas into India, and how they adjusted to later life in Switzerland.

Alek: From Sudanese Refugee to International Supermodel. Alek Wek. Amistad, 2007. This touching story tells of Alek Wek's journey from a Sudan torn apart by civil war, to London and New York, where she became a supermodel, an entrepreneur and spokesperson for refugees.

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers. Loung Ung. HarperCollins, 2000. This depiction of horrific events as seen through the eyes of a child growing up amid the killing fields of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, 1975-1979, gives insight into the impact of unspeakable tragedy later in life.

Learning to Die in Miami: Confessions of a Refugee Boy. Carlos Eire. Free Press, 2010. A continuation of his earlier memoir, Waiting for Snow in Havana, Eire here tells us, with humor and insight, of life starting with his 1962 landing in Miami as one of the children sent from Cuba in Operation Peter Pan and how he forged a life, ultimately becoming a professor at Yale University.

My Two Chinas: The Memoir of a Chinese Counterrevolutionary. Baiqiao Tang with Damon DiMarco. Prometheus Books, 2011. A dissident who led student protests at Tiananmen Square in 1989, and entered the U.S. as a political refugee, shares his struggle to help his country become free.

The Story of My Life: An Afghan Girl on the Other Side of the Sky. Farah Ahmedi with Tamim Ansary. Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2005. (later published as The Other Side of the Sky: A Memoir) Farah Ahmedi and her mother flee to Pakistan and ultimately to Chicago, after tragedies drive them from their home in Kabul, Afghanistan.

For further reading, check out one of the other lists of books on the refugee experience that have been compiled by organizations such as International Rescue Committee, HIAS, and the U.K.'s Refugee Council. Also, this blog post has more information about refugees and World Refugee Day.


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