To the charity workers, Dadaab refugee camp is a humanitarian crisis; to the Kenyan government, it is a 'nursery for terrorists'; to the western media, it is a dangerous no-go area; but to its half a million residents, it is their last resort.Read more...
To the charity workers, Dadaab refugee camp is a humanitarian crisis; to the Kenyan government, it is a 'nursery for terrorists'; to the western media, it is a dangerous no-go area; but to its half a million residents, it is their last resort.
Situated hundreds of miles from any other settlement, deep within the inhospitable desert of northern Kenya where only thorn bushes grow, Dadaab is a city like no other. Its buildings are made from mud, sticks or plastic, its entire economy is grey, and its citizens survive on rations and luck. Over the course of four years, Ben Rawlence became a first-hand witness to a strange and desperate limbo-land, getting to know many of those who have come there seeking sanctuary. Among them are Guled, a former child soldier who lives for football; Nisho, who scrapes an existence by pushing a wheelbarrow and dreaming of riches; Tawane, the indomitable youth leader; and schoolgirl Kheyro, whose future hangs upon her education.
In City of Thorns, Rawlence interweaves the stories of nine individuals to show what life is like in the camp and to sketch the wider political forces that keep the refugees trapped there. Rawlence combines intimate storytelling with broad socio-political investigative journalism, doing for Dadaab what Katherinee Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers did for the Mumbai slums. Lucid, vivid and illuminating, City of Thorns is an urgent human story with deep international repercussions, brought to life through the people who call Dadaab home.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-08-24
- Reviewer: Staff
Rawlence (Radio Congo), who worked in Africa for Human Rights Watch between 2006 and 2012, brings to horrifying life the conditions in the U.N.-administered refugee camp in Dadaab, a town in northern Kenya. By combining his own experiences with interviews with residents of Dadaab, he makes the human rights crisis—rarely covered in the media—vivid and immediate for readers. Rawlence delves into the stories of nine people, putting particular emphasis on Guled, who was born in Mogadishu in 1993 at the same time as the downing of two American Black Hawk helicopters. Rawlence describes how the Black Hawk wreckage became a play area for Guled, foreshadowing his life of deprivation and struggle, mostly within the confines of Dadaab. These and other telling details will resonate with readers long after they finish the book. Rawlence eloquently expresses his moral outrage at the conditions Guled and others endure, as when he notes that a “refugee camp has the structure of punishment without the crime,” running on “visibility and control—the same principles that guide a prison.” This is a compelling examination of the tragedy of a place where one “can only survive... by imagining a life elsewhere.” 5 b&w maps. Agent: Sophie Lambert, Conville & Walsh (U.K.). (Jan.)