Reading/Interest Level: Intermediate, Young Adult
Author: Jane Mitchell
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
The last we see of Ghalib and his Kurdish-Syrian family’s flight from air raids, ISIS, and desperation is on the crowded shore of Greece. In fact, this is often how Westerners see the refugee story: a direct line from bombs to asylum in Europe or the United States. However, Mitchell weaves a tale strife with the humanities of pain, joy, family, dreams, youth, age, desperation, emotion, and culture. Ghalib, full of insecurities and curiosity, finds that leaving behind the war isn’t as simple as it seems. “Take only what you can carry” includes his disabled little brother. “Refugee” means his mother, sister, and grandmother must cover their faces and be treated as less than equal because of the terrorist controls. Ultimately, Ghalib’s escape from Syria is not the end of the danger which came to his family.
Deep, current issues stare readers in the face as they inevitably fly through these pages. Mitchell honors the Persian heritage of many Middle Eastern peoples through the poetic, rhythmic constructs of her passages. Assumptions, biases, and stereotypes rooted deep within peripheral cultures are rebuked by the unapologetic love and wisdom of Ghalib’s parents and the equality that exists between sexes in the Kurdish culture. Although packed with credible information and deeply painful scenes of loss, separation, and violence, Mitchell weaves beauty into every sentence and paragraph, highlighting the beauty of diverse cultures, the reluctance of their people to leave their homes, and their deep loyalty to they feel toward their nation even as they flee for their lives, from one dangerous place to another.
*Contains moderate violence.