City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World's Largest Refugee Camp

Picador. Jan. 2016. 400p. maps. notes. ISBN 9781250067630. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781250067647. HIST
OrangeReviewStarRawlence (Radio Congo) humanizes the refugee experience in East Africa by focusing on a cross-section of nine refugees from Dadaab, a camp in Kenya close to the border of Somalia that began in 1992 and has grown to the size of Atlanta, with nearly half a million residents. During the 2011 famine in that region, 260,000 people in Dadaab died. Rawlence focuses on this theoretically impermanent shelter for refugees that has become a permanent home for families, for child soldiers forced into the militant al-Shabaab Somalian group linked to al-Qaida, and for the NGOs and UN workers managing the relief work there. The situation in the camp and the surrounding countries is complex and somewhat unknown to American readers. Rawlence effectively penetrates this complexity by exploring Dadaab through the lives of nine of its residents, all of whom have hopes, are beginning families or are struggling to feed and care for them, are trying to get access to more education, and are resisting the financial stability offered by fundamentalist militias such as al-Shabaab.
VERDICT Essential for humanists, those who are contemplating the struggles of refugees worldwide, and those interested in how humanitarian aid and other international efforts impact those in the midst of crisis. [See Prepub Alert, 7/20/15.]
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