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The New Odyssey: The Story of the Twenty-First Century Refugee Crisis

The New Odyssey: The Story of the Twenty-First Century Refugee Crisis

by Patrick Kingsley

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In the humane tradition of Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers comes a searing account of the international refugee crisis.On the day of his son’s fourteenth birthday, Hashem al-Souki lay somewhere in the Mediterranean, crammed in a wooden dinghy. His family was relatively safe—at least for the time being—in Egypt, where they had


In the humane tradition of Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers comes a searing account of the international refugee crisis.On the day of his son’s fourteenth birthday, Hashem al-Souki lay somewhere in the Mediterranean, crammed in a wooden dinghy. His family was relatively safe—at least for the time being—in Egypt, where they had only just settled after fleeing their war-torn Damascus home three years prior. Traversing these unforgiving waters and the treacherous terrain that would follow was worth the slim chance of securing a safe home for his children in Sweden. If he failed, at least he would fail alone. Hashem’s story is tragically common, as desperate victims continue to embark on deadly journeys in search of freedom. Tracking the harrowing experiences of these brave refugees, The New Odyssey finally illuminates the shadowy networks that have facilitated the largest forced exodus since the end of World War II.The Guardian’s first-ever migration correspondent, Patrick Kingsley has traveled through seventeen countries to put an indelible face on this overwhelming disaster. Embedding himself alongside the refugees, Kingsley reenacts their flight with hundreds of people across the choppy Mediterranean in the hopes of better understanding who helps or hinders their path to salvation. From the starving migrants who push through sandstorms with children strapped to their backs to the exploitive criminals who prey on them, from the smugglers who dangerously stretch the limits of their cargo space to the volunteers who uproot their own lives to hand out water bottles—what emerges is a kaleidoscope of humanity in the wake of tragedy. By simultaneously tracing the narrative of Hashem, who endured the trek not once but twice, Kingsley memorably creates a compassionate, visceral portrait of the mass migration in both its epic scope and its heartbreaking specificity.Exposing the realities of this modern-day odyssey as well as the moral shortcomings evident in our own indifference, the result is a crucial call to arms and an unprecedented exploration of a world we too often choose not to know.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Guardian migration correspondent Kingsley (How to Be Danish) has written a moving and timely book that presents the crisis of the subtitle in both microcosm and macrocosm. He opens with an episode from Syrian refugee Hashem al-Souki’s harrowing trek from his embattled home country in search of a safe haven for his family in Europe. Kingsley then pulls back to put al-Souki’s situation in context, convincingly arguing that while there is a refugee crisis, “it’s one caused largely by our response to the refugees, rather than by the refugees themselves.” He points out that the number of refugees leaving Turkish shores in 2015 for the stability of Northern Europe represents just 0.2% of the E.U.’s total population, an influx that “the world’s richest continent can feasibly absorb.” Kingsley also notes that the failure to create an “organized system of mass resettlement” contributed to the situation. Alternating sections tracing al-Souki’s odyssey help keep the reader grounded in the horrify- ing realities of the tragedy, while carefully chosen details, such as smugglers setting up Facebook pages to attract business, demonstrate how even responses to crisis can become prosaic. Illus. (Jan.)
Philip Pullman
“Tremendously impressive…The details are vivid, sometimes shocking, always telling; and the desperation and courage of those such as Hashem al-Souki are profoundly moving. The story of what lies behind the continuing and appalling news from the Mediterranean has rarely been told so strongly.”
New Republic
“[An] an urgent appeal to humanity and reason…a compelling read.”
The Washington Post
“[A] a deeply reported account… Kingsley gives a sympathetic and often damning portrayal of the extraordinary risks and efforts that so many refugees have taken to find a new life. He puts a human face on the hyper-politicized refugee crisis while conveying the magnitude of the crisis.”
Raymond Pun - Booklist
“Kingsley intimately covers the issues, struggles, and stories of migrant refugees…[The New Odyssey] is deeply engaging, eye-opening, and insightful to the ongoing challenges that refugees face in navigating through these multilayers political and social systems.”
Maya Jasanoff - Guardian
“[A] fascinating study…The New Odyssey start[s] to do for the refugees what British abolitionists did for the slave trade. [It] mobilize[s] eyewitness testimony to promote empathy, and through empathy, better policy.”
David Hare
“Kingsley is doing the world an invaluable service by showing that migrants are particular and human, not collective and a group, and that each of them—just like us—has a story of their own.”
Suzanne Lynch - Irish Times
“[One of] the most important books you will read this year…[Kingsley’s] experience reporting from the front lines of the crisis gives an unrivaled perspective…powerful.”
Lauren LeBlanc - St. Louis Post Dispatch
“A lucid and unflinching book that captures the ripples of the largest wave of mass migration since World War II. The New Odyssey delicately grapples with the task of encapsulating the crisis without diminishing its sprawling horror...The New Odyssey is a story that you cannot avoid.”
James Norton - Christian Science Monitor
“A vivid picture of the human suffering that migrants face during their journey. . . . Anyone who thinks that the refugee crisis is a straightforward problem – to be solved with iron fences or with welcoming committees – will benefit from The New Odyssey...By looking at warm-hearted rescuers as well as cold-blooded smugglers, and possible solutions as well as grave problems, Kingsley finds the good – and the hope – in a truly massive challenge to our collective humanity.”
The Oprah Magazine O
“An essential account of a crisis we’ve hardly begun to grapple with.”
Elizabeth Collett - Foreign Affairs
“Policymakers can often forget the plight of the individual men, women, and children who have migrated. . . . The New Odyssey . . . chronicle[s] the uncertainties and fears of the courageous, desperate, and sometimes foolhardy voyagers. They offer an important rejoinder to the idea, widespread across Europe, that such journeys are acts of pure opportunism.”
Library Journal
The Guardian's inaugural migration correspondent, Kingsley was named foreign affairs journalist of the year at the 2015 British Journalism Awards for "The Journey," on which this book is partly based. The author, who has traveled through 17 countries and met hundreds of refugees, here clarifies both what refugees are escaping and how they do it. In particular, he follows the fate of one Syrian refugee making his way westward not once but twice, with Kingsley not just reporter but participant.
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2016-10-05
Bravely following the refugee crisis from the Middle East to the European Union as it gains volume and urgency.The former Egypt correspondent for the Guardian and fortuitously named “the inaugural migration correspondent” at the paper just last year, Kingsley (How to be Danish: A Journey to the Cultural Heart of Denmark, 2014) takes both a personal and altruistic approach to the massive migration of peoples fleeing Syria and other global hot spots. In the past few years, there has been a huge spike in the numbers of civilians fleeing conflicts in the Middle East—indeed, an unprecedented number not equaled since the end of World War II. Since 2014, more than 1.4 million people crossed the Mediterranean Sea to reach ports in Turkey, Greece, or Italy, and from there to more benevolent havens in northern Europe such as Sweden and (now) Germany. Kingsley diligently pursues the fates of several specific refugees (though he prefers the more neutral word “migrant” over the politically heavy “refugee”). For example, Hashem, a Damascus civil servant with a wife and three sons, was rounded up in 2012 by the Syrian dictator’s police force, senselessly imprisoned and tortured, before the innocent man realized he and his family had to flee to survive. So he headed out on a long, expensive, and very dangerous journey, by boat, rail, and foot, from Egypt to Sweden, where he hoped to find permanent residence and eventually bring his family with him. Elsewhere, the author examines the life of the smuggler, who, in many cases, was once a migrant himself but is now taking advantage of the vulnerable refugees and getting rich; and people like Eric Kempson, a volunteer on the Turkish island of Lesvos, who actually helps the migrants with sorely needed food, water, and transportation when they literally wash ashore. The numbers will keep growing, notes the author, and denying the problem or closing the borders will only make it worse. A powerful firsthand account of a crisis that will continue to receive even more attention in the years to come.

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Liveright Publishing Corporation
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5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.50(d)

Meet the Author

Patrick Kingsleyis the Guardian’s inaugural migration correspondent. An award-winning journalist, he has reported from more than twenty-five countries and is the author of The New OdysseyandHow to
Be Danish.

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