Most of the refugee stories we read about in the media are negative. But the reality for those fleeing persecution is more often about the emotional scars of torture and the struggles of building a new life. This anthology of new writings on asylum seekers is intended to directly challenge the negative press given to those seeking a safe haven on these shores as well as serving as a testament to the strength of the human spirit.
Britain has a long history of providing safe refuge to those fleeing conflict, poverty or terror and it is something we should be proud of. Using the works of celebrated writers is one sure way to generate more positive perspectives regarding asylum seekers. Writers are uniquely placed to challenge pre-conceived ideas and stereotypes because of their understanding of the power of words and ability to articulate truths.
Building on the success of the landmark Australian publication, A Country Too Far, this sister anthology will incorporate the work of Britain and Ireland’s finest writers including: Hassan Abdulrazzak, Sebastian Barry, William Boyd, Kate Clanchy, Amanda Craig, Moris Farhi MBE, Elaine Feinstein, Tim Finch, Sue Gee, Stephen Kelman, A.L Kennedy, Hanif Kureishi, Marina Lewycka, Hubert Moore, Courttia Newland, Ruth Padel, Katharine Quarmby, Noo Saro Wiwa, Joan Smith, Roma Tearne, Rose Tremain and Alex Wheatle MBE.
A Country of Refuge will include newly commissioned fiction, memoir, poetry and essays and is intended to make a positive and vital contribution to the national debate.
The Blue Scarf by Roma Tearne from the collection The Dark Side Of The World
It was cool on the beach. And empty. The fishermen had already gone leaving only the marks from their boats in a long unbroken line on the sand. We stood, half hidden by a coconut tree and stared out to sea. Stared at the thin blue line that signified eternity. I sensed without hearing that Kirthika was crying but I didn’t turn round. I knew what she was thinking.
That on this beach a girl was raped by the army. That on this beach a man was killed. That blood was spilt in our name and the names of all the people of this island.
That we loved this place. That nowhere else on earth would ever be home. Eyes, I thought, look your last.
Further up the coast a festival was in progress. The rich and the famous from western nations were in attendance. For a few brief days they too could stand looking at the horizon line. But they would never see what we saw in that moment. They could not love this land as passionately as we did. How could the tailorbird’s call signify anything special to them? For us it is the birdsong of childhood, heralding a lullaby at twilight, a mother’s hand stroking her son’s head. Part of a young girl’s dreams. No the tailorbird could not mean all this to the visitors on the island.
Kirthika was crying in earnest by now. From the corner of my eye I saw her, head bent, like a young girl. Like the girl from long ago, whose hand I had so insistently asked for in marriage. We did not know then the things we know now.
‘We’d better go,’ I told her.
The sea moved restlessly and somewhere in the distance a train rushed past.
‘Come, Kiri,’ I said. ‘Come, come.’
And we went back to the house, our footprints in the sand. We were people who had seen too much and must therefore be killed.The Blue Scarf by Roma Tearne from the collection The Dark Side Of The World
Thank you again for supporting A Country of Refuge and I hope you have received copies of your book/s. I wanted to draw your attention to a fantastic eve taking place at the Free Word Centre during Refugee Week on Weds 22 June at 6pm.
Details below and link to book tickets is: https://www.freewordcentre.com/whats-on/refugee-week-stories
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