Monday, April 16, 2018

The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives

The Displaced is a collection of short essays written by refugees, who share their experience of leaving their home nation for another country (whether by choice or necessity), in order to seek a better life. Pulitzer Prize winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen edits and provides the foreword on a grippingly effective book in light of current events.

The short essays range from 1950’s escapes from communist countries to leaving brutish despots in Africa. Each of the essays shares the challenges, the struggles, and the perception of being “the other” that many faced when they made their trek in search of a better life. Nguyen provides his own story of leaving Vietnam in the 1970’s to frame the subsequent essays. Each essay is powerful on its own, making the case that nearly all who escape the struggle and oppression in their home country will go on to achieve and contribute to their new home country if only given the opportunity to do so.

When most think of refugees, the images of what is going on in Syria at present readily come to mind. Or you may think of the migration of Vietnamese by boat in the 1970’s to the United States. Nguyen will challenge most conventional wisdom in this book, first by reminding readers that there are over 65 million displaced individuals globally, which would be one of the twenty five largest countries on earth when ranked in population. Secondly, he reminds us that the remainder of the refugees that were not profiled are not voiceless but have their own stories and struggles that are waiting to be heard...if only we give them that opportunity.