Refugee Reads

These books can give you a window into the refugee experience for those with personal or family experience, or anyone hoping to understand.

“Recognize yourself in he and she who are not like you and me.”

― Carlos Fuentes

The story of the refugee is as old as the most ancient myth, and as current as the most recent social media post. People do not take on this role lightly, nor by choice. The list offered below includes some well-known accounts, and some that may be new to you.

Digital book (DB, DBC, DBF, DBG), braille (BR), large print (LT), and audio described videos (DVD) copies of these titles are available from the Perkins Library or the Worcester Talking Book Library. Please contact the library to order any of these books.

Prepared by James Gleason

Deputy Director/Special Services Librarian

Perkins Library


by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

DB 77188, DBG17313 (French), DBG18008 (Spanish), LT 19816, Available as BARD Download

After studying in the United States for thirteen years, Ifemelu, a Nigerian woman who blogs about race, returns home to Lagos. She has endured enough cultural issues and misses her first love. But the Nigerians label her an “Americanah.” Some strong language. 2013

Download Americanah, DB 77188

Download French, Americanah, DBG 17313

Download Spanish, Americanah, DBG 18008

The Beekeeper of Aleppo

by Christy Lefteri

DB 96236, BR 22818, LT 27456, Available as BARD Download

Beekeeper Nuri cares for his artist wife Afra, who has been blinded. He has hopes to be reunited with his cousin Mustafa who runs an apiary in England. As he and Afra negotiate the fraught journey of Syrian war refugees, they must also reconnect with each other. Some violence. 2019

Download The Beekeeper of Aleppo, DB 96236

Download Braille, The Beekeeper of Aleppo, BR 18644

Black Ops: The Life of a CIA Shadow Warrior

by Ric Prado

DB 107409, LT 31185, DB available as BARD Download

A CIA officer reflects on his difficult childhood and eventual career with the CIA that ended with his retirement as the CIA equivalent of a two-star general. He discusses some of the missions he served on, his efforts to develop assets, and his team’s role in the War on Terror. Bestseller. 2022

Download Black Ops, DB 107409

The Boy at the Back of the Class 

by Onjali Q. Raúf

DB 97207, Available as BARD Download

When quiet Ahmet arrives in their classroom, a group of kids fail to draw him out. But they don’t give up and try a new plan after learning he is a Syrian refugee. For grades 3-6. 2018

Download The Boy at the Back of the Class , DB 97207

City of Thorns: Nine Lives In the World’s Largest Refugee Camp 

by Ben Rawlence

DB 85749, BR 21709, LT 20452, Available as BARD Download

A portrayal of the lives of nine occupants of the Dadaab refugee camp in the inhospitable deserts of northern Kenya, where only thorn bushes grow. Those profiled include a former child soldier, a schoolgirl, and a man who scrapes together a living by pushing a wheelbarrow. Some violence. 2016

Download City of Thorns, DB 85749

Download Braille, City of Thorns, BR 21709

Contra El Viento: Una Narración Muy Personal 

by Juan Suárez

DB 43986, Available as BARD Download

The author tells of his life as an ordinary man of humble origins who, through his love of God, country, and family, overcame hardship and adversity. He portrays his beloved native Cuba as a land he saw corrupted by the Castro regime. He also describes how his family sustained him in his search for success and happiness. Spanish language. 1998

Download Contra El Viento, DB 43986

The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of An American Life 

by Lauren Markham

DB 89393, DB 96880 (youth adaptation), Available as BARD Download

Journalist follows the journey of seventeen-year-old twins Ernesto and Raul Flores as they fled gang violence in El Salvador, eventually being placed in the care of an estranged brother residing in California. Recounts the boys’ adjustment to life as American teenagers and provides a portrait of their experiences as migrants. 2017

Download The Far Away Brothers, DB 89393

Download Youth Adaptation, The Far Away Brothers, DB 96880

Fiddler on the Roof 

by Jerry Bock

DB 54654, Available as BARD Download

Script of the musical play based on the stories of Sholom Aleichem about a Jewish family living in a Russian village in the early years of the twentieth century. Despite hard times and five daughters, the father, Tevye, manages to keep a sense of humor. 1964

Download Fiddler on the Roof , DB 54654

The Gift

by Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov

DB 11938, DBF04340 (Russian), Available as BARD Download

Centers on a young poet living in a colony of intellectual exiles in Berlin who fled the Bolshevik revolution in Russia and his love affair with a proud young woman. 1938

Download The Gift, DB 11938

Download Russian, The Gift, DBF 4340

A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea: One Refugee’s Incredible Story of Love, Loss, and Survival 

by Melissa Fleming

DB 87867, BR 21957, LT 21704, Available as BARD Download

The author shares the story of young Syrian refugee Doaa Al Zamel. She recounts how Doaa and her family left war-torn Syria for Egypt, her relationship with a former Free Syrian Army fighter named Bassem, and Doaa and Bassem’s harrowing flight from Egypt across the Mediterranean Sea. 2017

Download A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea, DB 87867

Download Braille, A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea, BR 21957

Letters from Cuba

by Ruth Behar

DB 100506, DB 108076 (Spanish), LT 30172, Available as BARD Download

In 1938, young Esther joins her father in tropical, multicultural Cuba, where they toil together to rescue the rest of their Jewish family from persecution in Poland. For grades 3-6. 2021. 

Download Letters from Cuba, DB 100506

Download Spanish, Letters from Cuba, DB 108076

The Other Side of Truth 

by Beverley Naidoo

DB 54378, JL 497, Available as BARD Download

Nigeria, 1995. When Sade’s journalist father becomes a political target and her mother is murdered, Sade and her younger brother, Femi, are smuggled to London for safety. they become stranded there, alone and without a family, desperately worried about their father’s situation. Some violence. For grades 5-8. Carnegie Medal. 2000

Download The Other Side of Truth, DB 54378

The Refugees 

by Viet Thanh Nguyen

DB 88948, BR 21968, LT 22279, Available as BARD Download

Collection of eight short stories from Pulitzer Prize winner. Set in both Vietnam and America, the stories explore immigration and the resulting issues with identity, loyalties, romantic relationships, and family. In “Black-Eyed Women,” a writer deals with ghosts of all sorts. Some violence and some descriptions of sex. Bestseller. 2017

Download The Refugees, DB 88948

Download Braille, The Refugees, BR 21968

A Stranger and You Welcomed Me: A Call to Mercy and Solidarity With Migrants and Refugees 

by Pope Francis

DB 93520, BR 22561, Available as BARD Download

Leader of the Roman Catholic Church and author of The Name of God Is Mercy (DB 83513, BR 21491) presents a collection of writings on welcoming and caring for refugees of conflicts. Includes addresses, homilies, prayers, and annual messages given between 2014 and 2018 for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. 2018

Download A Stranger and You Welcomed Me, DB 93520

Download Braille, A Stranger and You Welcomed Me, BR 22561

The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father

by Kao Kalia Yang

DBC02876, Available as BARD Download

The Hmong tradition is that the stories of the culture are kept alive by song poet. Author Kao Kalia Yang’s father, Bee Yang, was one of these. Bee’s song started when he was orphaned and went from one neighbor to the next, collecting the things they said to each other. His song started in Laos, moved through the jungle and a Thai refugee camp, and ended in a St. Paul housing project. 2017.

Download The Song Poet, DBC 2876

Tevye the Dairyman and the Railroad Stories 

by Sholem Aleichem

DB 102096, Available as BARD Download

A collection of short stories examining human nature and modernity from the perspective of villagers riding trains from shtetl to shtetl. Also includes material focused on Tevye, a compassionate, Bible-quoting dairyman from Anatevka. Translated from the original Yiddish publication. Strong language. 1987

Download Tevye the Dairyman and the Railroad Stories , DB 102096

Those We Throw Away Are Diamonds: A Refugee’s Search For Home 

by Mondiant Dogon

DB 106093, LT 31108, Available as BARD Download

The author, a Bagogwe Tutsi born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, recounts his experiences after being forced to flee his home for Rwanda when he was a child. He details life in the UN tent cities, his time as a child soldier, and his struggle to forge a better life. 2021

Download Those We Throw Away Are Diamonds, DB 106093

Victim 2117 

by Jussi Adler-Olsen

DB 98723, BR 23138, LT 28178, Available as BARD Download

The newspaper refers to the body only as Victim 2117–the two-thousand-one-hundred-and-seventeenth refugee to die in the Mediterranean Sea. But the death sets off a chain of events that throws Department Q, Copenhagen’s cold cases division led by Detective Carl Mørck, into a deeply dangerous–and deeply personal–case. Translated from Danish. 2020

Download Victim 2117, DB 98723

Download Braille, Victim 2117, BR 23138

We Are Displaced: My Journey and Stories From Refugee Girls Around the World 

by Malala Yousafzai

DB 93853, LT 25280, Available as BARD Download

Nobel Peace Prize winner explores her own experience as a displaced person, and shares the personal stories of the incredible girls she has met on her journeys–girls who have lost their community, relatives, and often the only world they’ve ever known. For senior high and older readers. 2019

Download We Are Displaced, DB 93853

What Strange Paradise 

by Omar El Akkad

DB 105739, LT 30241, Available as BARD Download

Bodies wash up on the shores of a small island after another dilapidated ship sinks under the weight of its passengers. Syrians, Ethiopians, Egyptians, Lebanese, Palestinians–all desperate to escape untenable lives in their homelands. But miraculously, nine-year-old Amir has survived the passage and is rescued by local teen Vänna. 2021

Download What Strange Paradise, DB 105739


Works in Translation: Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Marrakesh Treaty


Books with Twist Endings


Banned Books 2023