Title: The Displaced
Author: several writers, edited by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Genre: non-fiction essays
Rating: 5 stars
Publication date: April 10th 2018, published by Abrams Press
I saw this book being advertised on Netgalley and when I read the synopsis, I knew I had to request it. It’s a compilation of non-fiction essays written by amazing writers who have, in one way or another, dealt with being a refugee. Some had to flee their country because of war, others because of extreme poverty. I fell in love with the writing style and how the issue of migration was handled.
If you want to know more about this book and read my thoughts, click to read the whole post!
A year after Donald Trump signed the first executive order putting restrictions on immigration from seven muslim-majority countries — particularly targeting refugees of all nationalities — award-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen curated a collection of essays penned by former refugees.
The Displaced is a compilation of essays written by people who have suffered the consequences of displacement in their own skin. People who have left their possessions, their family, their language, and their culture behind. People who have had to learn a new language, how to adapt to a new culture, and dealing with being identified with being ‘other.’
Unlike with a lot of essay compilations, every story included in The Displaced was superb. The experiences of war and poverty in the first person told by these writers felt incredibly real, and the lessons that can be drawn from them precious. They were so good, that I picked it up to read one essay and ended up reading the whole book in one sitting.
All of these writers have felt in their skin what it feels like to be uprooted from their homeland to escape poverty, and the consequences of such events are explored in a brilliant way in this book.
These essays all explore, in one way or another, a refugee’s experience. Joseph Azam’s essay, “Last, First, Middle,” deals with the question of identity when tied to a name. Like what happens with so many foreigners, the mark of “otherness” is announced by their name. Azam’s first name — Mohammad — caused him to stress about integration in an American high school, leading him to adopt his second name — Yousef — because of its similarity with the more traditional name Joseph.
Reyna Grande’s essay, “The Parent Who Stays,” was my absolute favorite. In it, the writer explores the tie between the Mexican-American border and emotional, metaphorical borders. After being separated from her father as a little girl and eventually successfully crossing the Rio Grande, the relationship Reyna Grande develops with her family is fascinating and sad at the same time. Assimilation with the American language and culture, as well as a formal education, stand as an obstacle between the writer and her parents. This particular writer is definitely one I’ll be on the lookout for. Her prose was emotional and lyrical, and I really want to read more of her works.
My favorite thing about non-fiction is how it always teaches me to see the world from a different point of view. Although refugees are a much-talked-about topic, especially in Europe and in the United States, a couple of the questions raised related to one’s identity had never crossed my mind.
With so many nativist laws being passed in the western world, the voices of those who have endured so many obstacles imposed by poverty and war must be treasured. It’s in times like these that these narratives should be protected from being forgotten.