A reporter on the war in Afghanistan goes undercover in 2016 to accompany his Afghan friend and interpreter on his journey out as a refugee. This gripping non-fiction narration on the plight of the refugee is a sobering look at the many difficulties of getting away from danger to start afresh in a new place.
The story is compelling and rather riveting, told from the (Pulitzer Prize winning) reporter’s point of view, rather than that of his friend, the actual refugee. He put himself in quite a lot of danger to be able to tell this story first hand, and bridged the experience of the refugee with us westerners, by virtue of having the experiences and perspectives of both.
He relays the story quite frankly and dispassionately; it never feels dramatized. There is no need for embellishment in this story that contains so much uncertainty and risk. I learned a lot that I never knew about what refugees went through and were up against. The solution to me seems to be more equity and less war, and how likely is that? It is so sad to realize that these problems are not going away any time soon.
Here are the bits I flagged for you:
- “Nothing is intolerable until an alternative exists.”
- “More than half of global wealth is concentrated in North America and Europe, home to 15% of the population. Even after adjusting for the cost of living, per capita American income is thirty times that of Afghans. Economists refer to a citizenship premium which measures how much – all else, such as education being equal– someone earns simply as a result of living in a particular country. It is as much as ten times more valuable to be the same individual in America or Europe than in a poor country; that is how much he or she might gain by crossing a border. Inequality is the slope of the frontier. It is the height of the wall that a person will scale.”
- “According to the 1951 Geneva Convention, the foundation of international refugee law, a refugee is someone with a well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, and not someone simply fleeing war or disaster– criteria tailored to the Cold War dissident.”
- “In 1979, in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, the West resettled one in twenty refugees worldwide. In 2015, the figure was about one in 200.” (What are to happen with the rest??)
Read this book if you want to grow your compassion for those less fortunate than you, and to realize how grateful you should be to be living with as much freedom over your own destiny as you have. After reading The Naked Don’t Fear the Water, you won’t take your cushy, privileged life for granted so much, and maybe you can influence the world for the better, either through specifically targeted prayer, or in any small humanitarian way.
I’m glad I read this excellent, but somber, new non-fiction refugee odyssey, and you might want to read it as well. I give it five stars.