World Refugee Day 2021 is this Sunday, June 20. And what better time to pick up a new memoir? When it comes to refugee resettlement and advocacy around forced migration issues, we at HDI often turn to our partners at World Relief, which has welcomed 294,000 refugees to the United States in partnership with the U.S. Department of State, and has served over 125,000 other immigrants by providing vital services and community connections.

When World Relief trains volunteers to work with new clients, these are some of the titles they recommend for further reading. And as a special bonus, some favorite titles of my own. Enjoy!—Laura

World Relief Picks:
The Story of My Life: An Afghan Girl on the Other Side of the Sky, by Farah Ahmedi with Tamim Ansary (2005)

An Afghan refugee girl escapes Afghanistan with her mother, but loses her leg in a land mine and most of her family before arriving in America. Farah’s story was published by Simon & Schuster after her story was selected in an essay contest sponsored by Good Morning America.

Of Beetles and Angels: A Boy's Remarkable Journey from a Refugee Camp to Harvard, by Mawi Asgedom (2001)

A memoir of an Ethiopian/Eritrean refugee boy who came to Wheaton, Ill. through World Relief. He ends up at Harvard University with a full-tuition scholarship and gives the commencement speech at his graduation. (Mawi is now an expert and speaker on social emotional learning.)

The Bible or the Axe: One Man’s Dramatic Escape from Persecution in the Sudan by William O. Levi (2005)

From the Amazon synopsis: “William Levi was born in southern Sudan as part of a Messianic Hebrew tribal group and spent the majority of his growing up years as a refugee running from Islamic persecution. He was eventually taken captive for refusing to convert to Islam and suffered greatly at the hands of his captors.” He went on to found Operation Nehemiah Missions International, an organization dedicated to rebuilding the minds, bodies, and spirits of the Sudanese people.

Editor’s picks:
Call Me American: A Memoir, by Abdi Nor Iftin (2018)

Abdi’s remarkable story—growing up in war-torn Somalia and winning the green card lottery to immigrate to the U.S.—feels very much like that of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. (In fact, NPR did a story on him called “Abdi and the Golden Ticket.”) This book, for which Abdi did not use a ghostwriter, is already being made into a movie. An absolute must read for any memoir lover.

An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography, by Paul Rusesabagina with Tom Zoellner (2007)

Remember the movie Hotel Rwanda? It’s the story of a hotel manager in Kigali who sheltered hundreds of people during the 1994 genocide in that country. He did it by sitting down each day with the militia who came to his hotel, serving them beer and cognac, and asking them to come back another day. “I was not particularly eloquent in these conversations,” Paul says in the introduction, but they went on for seventy-six days—and no one in his hotel was harmed. Do not miss this one.

What They Meant for Evil, by Rebecca Deng with Ginger Kolbaba (2005)

Rebecca Deng was one of the Lost Girls of Sudan... Now she has a degree from Calvin College and is raising three kids in Michigan with her American husband. If that transition intrigues you (and it should), pick up this book. Rebecca has also done work with the Trauma Healing program at the American Bible Society.