Thursday 11 November 2021

Review by Richard Byrt of "The Other Side of Hope: Journeys in Refugee and Immigrant Literature, vol.1," ed. Alexandros Plasatis et al

I strongly recommend this collection. I was moved by many of the gripping, “hard-to-stop-reading” stories and non-fiction, skilfully constructed poems, often with striking images, and comprehensive, interesting book reviews. There are contributions by both widely published and new writers. My only quibble concerns minor punctuation and other errors in some prose pieces.

George Sfougaras, who provides a striking cover illustration, refers to “losses and gains of leaving your country of origin to seek safety.” Reasons for staying and leaving the homeland are movingly considered by Madalena Daleziou. Some writers describe the need for people to emigrate because of war and terrorism (Marina Antropow Cramer, Jhon Sanchez) and this is also considered in book reviews by Lucy Popescu and Kathryn Aldridge-Morris. Banoo Zan indicates the importance of editors being prepared to accept poets’ criticisms of oppression in their home countries. Kimia Etemadi writes:

          … anything would be better than
          • the flogging
          • the torture
          • the executions
          • the mass graves…
          All you are is Other. 

Alberto Quero writes: 

          I was born in a place which became …
          an everlasting war,
          tears and exile …

Some authors indicate specific factors increasing migrants’ feelings of alienation, for example, in moving accounts of depression (Radhika Maira Tabrez) and relationships with unloving fathers (Dan Alex and Marina Antropow Cramer). Experiences of racism are described by Murzban F. Shroff and in J. B. Polk’s thought-provoking account of a First Nations woman who is exhibited in a circus. Sahra Mohamed writes vividly about considerable difficulties that she experienced at work as a Black Muslim woman. Musembi Wa’ Ndaita’s intriguing story concerns experiences of the son of American missionaries in Kenya. 

The wish to move to a better life is considered: for example, from China to the USA (Qin Sun Stubis), and from rural Hamirpur to a large city (Radhika Maira Tabrez). Murzban F. Shroff’s vivid description of his teenage trip across America is reminiscent of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Hardships in new countries are described by several authors, including Bingh and Amer Raawan: “The walls were tall, the gates were tall / my fear increased daily.”

People’s homelands are remembered in poems by Atar Hadari, Kimia Etemadi and Banoo Zan. Alberto Quero describes “belonging to no land.” Striking contrasts are made with host countries:

          We found a safe place
          for our children to grow
          but we don’t know
          if they will remember

          our language, the words
          that tell of their past …

Congratulations to the editors, authors, cover artist and everyone involved in The Other Side of Hope

About the reviewer
Much of Richard Byrt’s work is concerned with the experiences of those of us who face “othering” and discrimination. This is reflected in some of his published poetry, facilitation of creative writing and work for an LGBT+ history project. 

You can read a review of Richard's poetry collection, Devil's Bit, on Everybody's Reviewing here

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