Speed Reading Refugee Week June 2020

Nikita Lalwani’s novel focuses on the plight of Shan, a Sri Lankan asylum seeker working in an Italian restaurant in London. Vesuvio’s owner, Tuli, is an enigmatic character who employs and aids illegal migrants but no one knows his true motives and where his money comes from. Shan is desperate to be reunited with his wife and child, but is terrified of being deported before he finds them. Lalwani eloquently explores the prejudices, financial pressures and loneliness faced by “outsiders” trying to survive a hostile environment.

Dima Alzayat’s short stories offer us a window into the lives of those alienated by race, gender or cultural mores. Her powerful titular story is particularly timely. It explores the complicity of the US police in the shocking murder of a Syrian immigrant couple in Florida in 1929. Combining fact and fiction - through newspaper cuttings, characters’ memories and witness statements - the US state’s contempt for its indigenous people, ‘undesirable’ immigrants and ongoing racism is laid bare.

In her urgent and heart-breaking study, Christina Lamb gives a voice to women in conflict across four continents, many of whom are living in refugee camps. Lamb exposes how rape is used to silence, terrorise and humiliate women and as a means of ethnic cleansing. Rape was listed as an international war crime in 1919, but the International Criminal Court is yet to being anyone to justice. Lamb shines a light on some of the darkest areas of human experience and offers a clarion call for change.

Oriignally published by The Tablet