This summer, the United Nation’s refugee agency reported that the number of displaced people around the globe has reached its highest level ever. More than 65.3 million people have been forced from home. According to the International Rescue Committee, 11 million people—half of the population—have been displaced by war in Syria alone. Fifty percent of the world’s refugees are under the age of 18.
That we are living in a time of deep humanitarian crisis is no surprise, but the sheer volume of reported hardships and the incessant, 24/7 news and social-media cycle can have a numbing effect on those of us—like my family—who live lives cocooned by extreme privilege. So, when this gorgeous and stirring book arrived in a bundle on my doorstep, I opened it up without a thought and began reading to my daughter.
“Why is that mommy worried?”
“Why did they leave?”
“Why is there a wall?”
“Why did they go on a boat?”
“Are they safe?”
These are tough questions to answer, but the reality depicted in ‘The Journey’ by Francesca Sanna is more difficult by light years.
This new title from Flying Eye Books is a collage of personal stories that Sanna gathered after meeting two girls in a refugee center in Italy. It follows a family’s journey from a happy time; through loss and chaos; by car, truck, bicycle, and foot; over brick walls, oceans, and many borders; to a new home and to hope.
Sanna’s prose is lyrical yet sparse enough to emphasize the harsh and abrupt changes that the family experiences, and she has created a beautiful interplay of words and pictures. Her use of deep black and grey shapes that suggest hands and fingers are especially evocative, and she uses scale in interesting ways. For instance, when the family encounters an angry guard at a border crossing, he looms gigantic over the frightened children. All of the illustrations are beautifully layered and textured with color, pattern, and meaning.
Since my daughter and I shared this book, I have been thinking about it almost every day. It is beautiful in a way that’s almost haunting—and it should be.
The world refugee crisis is larger than ever, but we can all contribute to changing that by offering up as we are individually able.
Check these links for ways to lend support today.