Boy, Everywhere - A.M. Dassu
This first person recount of the journey from Syria to the UK is eye-opening and thought-provoking, and is guaranteed to make you stop and think next time you see one of THOSE headlines, or hear one of THOSE politicians comment on 'immigrants' to the UK.
Detailing the before and after of the journey to the UK, it offers a heart-breaking insight into the feelings of Sami, a 'typical' 13-year old boy who has his whole (and to me and my shame, surprisingly recognisable) way of life torn from him when his family flee Damascus in the wake of a bombing at a shopping mall as war comes closer to their home there. Leaving his friends, football, phone and all modern technology behind, his family are forced to endure hardships and horror not just as they make their way to the UK, but also when they get here, as they struggle to settle and find safety.
Sami's voice tells of the encounters with danger and cruelty with passion and detail, as he struggles to come to terms with his situation, and takes desperate measures to try and return to those and that which he was forced to leave behind. The nastiness of the people he encounters (both on the journey from strangers, and even when here from members of his extended family) will stay with me for a long time, and this powerful description of the treatment received will (and rightly should) make you think more of the people in the stories, their backgrounds, their stories and situation, and ultimately, what we can do to help. Sami's inner turmoil, the description of his feelings at his treatment, and his behaviour as a result, are powerful and poignant messsages about the effects that our actions and attitudes can have.
The ultimate message in this book, however, is one of hope for the family's future and kindness. Not all the characters Sami and his family encounter are out to hurt, harm or harrass them. There is kindness and welcome from a range of sources throughout the book, reminding us that good people do exist, and Sami's own kindness and the way he treats and stands up for another refugee, Aadam, on numerous occasions throughout the book, shows the humanity and morality that can and should exist in our treatment of others, regardless of our own circumstances.
A book for older readers, the recommended age is 11+, due to the nature of some of the language and the events within, this book is a powerful call to all of us about the way we treat strangers in need. Challenging our view of who these people in need are and the way that we deal with them, it asks questions of the reader in terms of our assumptions and views that are at times uncomfortable reading. But that's what makes this such a brilliant and powerful tale. It deserves an audience, and I hope that it both gets one and causes the changes that are needed in society to challenge our stereotypes and break down barriers; to make ourselves a more kind, empathetic and welcoming place for any that seek shelter here.
Thanks to A.M.Dassu for all that she does to spread awareness and raise funds for good works linked to Syria and refugees - all of which, along with the fascinating background to the story, is contained within the author's notes and messages at the back of the book. This is a truly gripping piece of work, both in its wider message and as an incredible journey and adventure story in itself. Thank you for sharing it, and giving children and families like Sami's the voice they deserve.
Thank you to Old Barn Books for the advance proof copy of the book to review, ahead of its publication on October 22nd. You can watch the live launch party at https://t.co/QkMAu8mp96?amp=1
A.M. Dassu is on Twitter as @a_reflective or online at www.amdassu.com
Old Barn Books are on Twitter as @oldbarnbooks and online at www.oldbarnbooks.com
Review by Rich Simpson (@richreadalot) October 2020