City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World's Largest Refugee Camp Paperback – 21 Jan 2016
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'A superb work that highlights the essential humanity of those faceless masses buffeted by events and desperately seeking salvation in one of the world's most troubled spots, [and offers an] outstanding glimpse into the shattered and insecure lives of those on the frontline of the global migration crisis... This is a highly readable book. It is also a damning indictment of the hypocrisy behind camps, which offer such pat solution to refugee crises for aid agencies and politicians... These are stories that need to be heard -- Ian Birrell, the Observer
'This gripping book about lives trapped between a rock and a hard place is a clear-minded, humanitarian insight into the desperation and resilience of the stateless' -- Saga Magazine
'A great read ... Stunning' -- Andrew Marr, BBC Start the Week
'Rawlence spent several years in Dadaab, Kenya, the world's biggest refugee camp - and this is his account of the lives of several of its inhabitants. For all Europe's panic about the recent wave of migrants, City of Thorns underlines how the vast majority of the world's 60 million displaced never leave hellholes like Dadaab.' --Patrick Kingsley author of The New Odyssey, Guardian
'Rawlence provides an intricate portrait of this sprawling settlement' -- Radio Times
'An absorbing book, full of heart... [a] thoughtful portrait' -- Katrina Manson, New Statesman
'[This] remarkable book comes as a timely reminder that the vast majority of the world's refugee population will never see European shores... Rawlence is brilliant on Dadaab's complex material life and what seems like a huge experiment in a mixed economy... [a] timely, disturbing and compelling book' -- Megan Vaughan, Guardian
'Rawlence can write with beauty [...] but the lyricism never distracts from the precision of his reporting... Rawlence's aim is to make distant lives matter, and in that he succeeds. [He] teases out a narrative that, like Dadaab, pulsates with life' --Tristan McConnell, The Times
'Gripping' -- the Economist
'The most absorbing book in recent memory about life in refugee camps' -- Wall Street Journal (Europe)
'This is a book that bristles with anger and despair, but is also full of compassion and dignity. Rawlence offers no solutions, no policy prescriptions. He simply lays out these people's lives and asks us to notice them - and to care' -- Robert Colvile, Daily Telegraph
'Rawlence vividly conveys the strain of living in the camp, always hungry, just waiting: [a] masterful account. Next time someone refers derisorily to a 'bunch of migrants', get them to read this book' --Christine Lamb, the Sunday Times
From the Inside Flap
Over the course of four years, Ben Rawlence became a first-hand witness to a strange and desperate limbo-land, getting to know many of those who have come there seeking sanctuary. Among them are Guled, a former child soldier who lives for football; Nisho, who scrapes an existence by pushing a wheelbarrow and dreaming of riches; Tawane, the indomitable youth leader; and schoolgirl Kheyro, whose future hangs upon her education.In City of Thorns, Rawlence interweaves the stories of nine individuals to show what life is like in the camp and to sketch the wider political forces that keep the refugees trapped there. Lucid, vivid and illuminating, City of Thorns is an urgent human story with deep international repercussions, brought to life through the people who call Dadaab home.See all Product description
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Dadaab is the world's largest refugee camp, spawned in the early 90's, during the Somali government collapse. Originally built to hold approximately 90,000 people on a temporal basis. It is now the home to almost a half million refugees. As I said, it is quite unnerving to soak in this reality. How these people came into the camp, how they live and continue, while under constant threat of rebel forces, is beyond one's imagination. Hope this helps:)
Rawlence describes the lives of nine people living in the Dadaab refugee camp complex in northern Kenya. He describes in surprising detail their everyday experiences, from finding work in the camp, to family issues, and treacherous journeys to and from their native land. Many of the refugees in the camp complex are from Somalia, though not all.
This was quite a perspective changing book for me. I'll admit, I usually just think of refugees as statistics that you hear about on the news, instead of as discrete individuals with their own story and their own personal struggles, some of which are not so different from my own. The book describes the difficulties of camp life, from ration cuts by the aid agencies and NGOs (because the Somali crisis wasn't "trendy" in the Western world) to being exploited by local Kenyan police forces, and the ever present shadow of extremism and terror groups.
In parts the book reads like fiction. Rawlence includes details that really give the narrative depth, and he's particularly gifted at painting a picture of life in the camp. This makes the book a pleasant and engaging read, and not the depressing monologue about poverty that it could have been.
Thoroughly recommend to everyone!
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