10 Authors On Being A Refugee

Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

As people flock to airports around the country and scramble to help people win or regain entry into the U.S., I have to wonder what's going on in the minds of people who have spent years in the vetting process, only to have their efforts shot down with the stroke of a pen. The following quotes from authors about being a refugee won't put you in the shoes of people who have been displaced by famine, war, persecution, or another conflict, but they may give you some insight into what life is like for people who don't lack merely a home, but a home country.

Donald Trump's immigration order — an executive order restricting the admission of refugees, immigrants, and green card holders from seven Middle Eastern countries, including people who have been displaced by the crisis in Syria — has prompted global demonstrations and the biggest fundraising weekend in the history of the ACLU. Anyone who says they didn't see this coming is a liar, because barring Muslims entry into the U.S. was one of Trump's campaign promises, but people are right to be shocked and outraged at the new order.

Obviously, reading does not take the place of good activism, but reading more about refugee experiences may inspire new ways for you to help. Check out the 10 quotes from books about being a refugee below, and then get to work. Your country needs you.


"People come here penniless but not cultureless. They bring us gifts. We can synthesize the best of our traditions with the best of theirs. We can teach and learn from each other to produce a better America."

— from The Middle of Everywhere by Mary Pipher


"Refugees didn’t just escape a place. They had to escape a thousand memories until they’d put enough time and distance between them and their misery to wake to a better day."

— from When the Moon Is Low by Nadia Hashimi


"She had sculpted the mist, the way those who have no choice do. She had willed a life for the two of us in a new land."

— from Love, Loss, and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi


"No one leaves home unless / home is the mouth of a shark."

— from "Home," contained in Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire


"But in our camp, his story was everyone’s story, a single tale of dispossession, of being stripped to the bones of one’s humanity, of being dumped like rubbish into refugee camps unfit for rats."

— from Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa


"[R]efugee problems don't end simply because journalistic interest moves elsewhere. The inhabitants themselves are irremediably stuck. They can't go back to Somalia because it isn't safe."

— from Bill Bryson's African Diary by Bill Bryson


"The choice is not between the current crisis and blissful isolation. The choice is between the current crisis and an orderly, managed system of mass migration. You can have one or the other. There is no easy middle ground."

— from The New Odyssey by Patrick Kingsley


"Your enemy is not the refugee. Your enemy is the one who made him a refugee."

— from a tweet by Tariq Ramadan, author of The Arab Awakening


"If the soul cannot find its jacket. it is condemned to an eternity of wandering — naked and alone."


"One of the unsettling things about my journey, mentally, physically, and emotionally, was that I wasn’t sure when or where it was going to end."

— from A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah