Rummanah Aasi

Description:  The story spans six years in the lives of Walid, his wife Dalia, and their two children, Amina and Youssef. Forced to flee from Syria, they become asylum-seekers in Lebanon, and finally resettled refugees in the West. It is a story that has been replayed thousands of times by other families.
  When the family home in Aleppo is destroyed by a government-led bomb strike, Walid has no choice but to take his wife and children and flee their war-torn and much loved homeland. They struggle to survive in the wretched refugee camps of Lebanon, and when Youssef becomes fatally ill as a result of the poor hygienic conditions, his father is forced to take great personal risk to save his family.
  Walid's daughter, the young Amina, a whip-smart grade-A student, tells the story. As she witnesses firsthand the harsh realities that her family must endure if they are to survive -- swindling smugglers, treacherous ocean crossings, and jihadist militias -- she is forced to grow up very quickly in order to help her parents and brother.

Review: While the news coverage of the Syrian Civil War and the refugee crisis has graced the headlines of newspapers for many years now, it is hard to personalize the many tragedies and losses of those who are involved and/or affected by the war. Escape from Syria, successfully depicts a fictionalized account of a family caught in the middle of the war. The author has captured the refugees's plight by using her knowledge as a Lebanese journalist who has covered the civil war in the English-language Lebanese newspaper called the Daily Star.  
  Amina's ordinary life in Aleppo, Syria, is forever changed when a bomb destroys her neighborhood and her family joins the millions of refugees fleeing Syria. The graphic novel uses flashbacks and spare text to narrate her journey from living a happy life in Syria to resettling in Canada as a refugee. We follow Amina and her family as they make a series of heartbreaking decisions such as leaving their home and loved ones behind in order to flee for safety in Lebanon, where they end up in a refugee camp. Amina is lucky enough to go to school, but it is a challenge as the school teaches in three languages: Arabic, English, and French. Soon their savings run out and her brother becomes sick. Once again the family makes hard choices in order to pay for his lifesaving medications. When the stress of renewing expensive visas becomes too much and unethical smugglers make life impossible, Amina finally finds help with a resettling agency.
 The story is eye opening and unforgettable, but never pandering to their reader's sympathy. The hardships that Syrian refugees face are written in a very matter of fact way. The reader connects to them as fellow humans not as "the other". There are plenty of dark moments throughout the book, but it does end on a hopeful bittersweet note on Amina's family trying to re-establish their home in a foreign land where many other obstacles are in their future. There are extensive endnotes at the end of the graphic novel which highlight the true events and explain references in the book. Escaping from Syria is a timely graphic novel that provides context on an ongoing, devastating, and complex war for readers.

Curriculum Connection: Social Studies, English

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: War violence is depicted including images of heads of men impaled on sticks, sexual harassment is also alluded in the graphic novel. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: A Game for Swallows by Zeina Abirached, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
3 Responses
  1. I just finished Senzai's Escape From Aleppo and this book sounds like a perfect follow up.

  2. Kindlemom Says:

    Oh interesting! I wonder if my daughter would enjoy this? I'll have to check it out more.

  3. This sounds informative. I truly don’t understand all that is going on in Syria right now and I would like to know more. Thanks for calling this to my attention.

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