“Every time you read the word “refugee”, imagine, instead of statistics…replace the word with ‘human being’. The space between Europe and Africa is a graveyard disguised as a sea”
It’s a collection of short stories each from the perspectives of different women from a variety of backgrounds. However, they were all united in their Somali background and what comes with the culture.
The above quote really says it all.
A harrowing, incredible, thought-provoking collection that leaves an impact on you. I can’t express how utterly mesmerised and astounded I was by it.
It’s a novel that tears apart the stereotype of refugees to reveal the human, that the media tries desperately to hide, underneath. There’s themes of womanhood, belonging, identity, depression and so much more. Hanna Ali’s description uses the stereotypes of Somali women to shatter these labels. As a Black woman, I found this incredible powerful because it’s a sharp reminder the media will create these stereotypes to dehumanise and degrade those that look different. We saw it even more during the Brexit campaign and I fear it will only increase as we move forward to leave the EU.
Regardless, Hanna Ali’s writing was beautiful and captivating. She gave you just enough of each character to help the reader to empathise before moving onto the next story. Metaphorically speaking, it’s almost reflective of just how some of the refugees’ home lives can be cut short as they’re forced to uproot and seek safety from everything they’ve ever known. Additionally, what was striking was that we never found out the protagonist’s names, which cleverly allowed the reader to imagine just how each story can be reflective of any refugee female. It wasn’t just one person’s story.
This is a collective story. There’s more than one voice speaking through these protagonists.
That’s what left me speechless.
Simultaneously, that’s what broke me.
Hanna Ali made me question my own privilege. She made me realise that it’s very easy to ignore that these problems are happening. She explored how refugees feel when they come to Britain and how they’re made to eradicate their uniqueness in order to ‘fit in’. She explores the alienation that comes with it and the mental damage that can cause. However, she is very careful in not just regulting them to just ‘refugees’, she creates a layered characters, each with their own problems and issues. However, their culture and their Somali background is what links them together.
She reflects how Somalia’s history can affect the generations that follow. Regardless of where they end up in the world. It’s a perfect example of how the past shapes who you are. Your ancestors laid the foundations of who you are.
And, she emphasises that the countries they come to reside in, will try and break apart these foundations through cruel, hyperbolic and inaccurate stereotypes. Forcing them to reject their culture and their heritage to assimilate.
The refugee crisis in Europe was a huge issue. Thousands of people risked their lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea to reach European shores. These were mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, brothers, sisters etc. These were people who had families, jobs and homes but had to give it all up when their lives were at risk.
Which is why it’s sickening that the media can paint them in sort of ways in order to rid their hands of helping.
That being said, I wanted to quickly raise awareness for Yemen. Since 2014, there’s been a civil war and alongside the poverty it has caused a humanitarian crisis amongst the people of Yemen. Over 24 million people need assistance. 16 million people wake up hungry every day.
It’s important that we try to help anyway we can. Yes, the West has their own issues but coming from a place of privilege we can do so much more to raise awareness.
Here’s a link with petitions and websites to donate:
The Story of Us is such a beautiful collection and I don’t think I can really do it with justice with this review.
All I can really say is that Hanna Ali should be incredibly proud of what she’s created.
Please do check this collection out! I can’t express how important it is to diversify your shelves and this is a perfect example. It’s available as both a paperback and eBook! Thank you so much to Market FiftyFour for this free copy!