I’m going to be honest and admit I was extremely skeptical of a white woman writing a story about a Syrian family, and I was pleasantly surprised. Elizabeth Laird creates a well researched, sensitive portrayal of warfare and its wide-reaching affects.
Welcome to Nowhere begins in Bosra, Syria, and follows twelve year old Omar and his family. Omar wants to be a great businessman, his sister Eman is determined to defy her father and become a teacher, and his brother Musa, continuously underestimated by everyone due to his cerebral palsy, is determined to fight for the Syria he envisions. Bombs begin to fall and people around Omar die, and so they flee Bosra first to Daraa, then to a family farm in the countryside, and finally to Jordan where they find themselves in a refugee camp.
This is not a short novel at just shy of 400 pages in the proof edition, but it is an important one. This novel is intended for British children to read in order to understand the refugee crisis, a learning aid through literature.
Not only that, but this novel accurately presents the attitudes and ableism directed at disabled people, a phenomenon seen world over – using offensive slang to describe the person, talking to people around them instead of to the person themselves. I was very impressed with this secondary theme in the story.
It is recommended by the publisher for children aged 9+ and I strongly recommend parents read it either alongside (especially with younger readers) or at least discuss with their children as the book progresses what they think about various parts of the book. The final hardback edition has the most stunning illustrations and I cannot wait to get my hand on a finished copy.
50p of every copy of the hardback sold will go to The Mandala Trust.
Interested? Buy it here.
What to read next: