9. – 13. Schuljahr

presented by SunČica KLaas and Carly McLaughlin

Experiences of displacement

Today, every second person among displaced people worldwide is a minor. That makes 30 million children and teenagers on the move. However, forced migration that involves minors is not a new phenomenon: These documentaries, short stories, young adult novels and non-fiction books tell their stories on the Kindertransport during WW2, on the long march of the Lost Boys of Sudan and in search of their mothers who left for the US to support their families.

The past two decades have seen an emerging genre of childrens and youth literature which takes the experience of displacement as its focus. This is not only connected with the increased visibility of children as migrants, but also the growing attention paid to childrens own voices and accounts of their experiences. These narratives humanize migration and offer a different perspective on asylum seekers and refugees from that provided by politicians and the media.
This article presents an overview of some recent narratives which thematise children seeking refuge that could be read in the classroom. The texts presented cover a range of media films, novels, short stories and represent different Anglophone contexts in order to introduce students to issues in other English-speaking areas of the world. In terms of language and subject matter, the texts are more suitable for older students (16 years plus).
Lore Segal [1964] (2018):
Other Peoples Houses
London: Sort of Books.
Lore Segals autobiographical novel Other Peoples Houses, republished in 2018 to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the Kindertransport, recounts her experiences as a child refugee brought from Germany to England before World War Two. In its tone it is an almost anti-celebratory, anti-sensationalist account of the Kindertransport, and thus differs from many other well-known accounts of the scheme. It also reflects on issues that are still central to child refugees experiences of displacement. For example, its self-definition as a novel frustrates the demands of truth and authenticity often made of refugee testimony. On what basis, the novel asks, do we decide which experiences are credible and therefore grounds for granting someone protection? It also challenges the cultural expectations placed on child refugees from the idea that they must embody innocent suffering, to the expectation of appropriate displays of gratitude from them. This novel suggests how stories of child displacement from other periods can be relevant today, and it could be discussed in relation to current debates on child migration in Britain. One current campaign, headed by the politician Lord Alfred Dubs, a Kindertransport veteran himself, is using the memory of the Kindertransport to generate support for children seeking refuge in Britain today. Forging parallels between histories of displacement can then, perhaps, shape a more humane response to refugees.
Interlaced refugee stories
Alan Gratz (2017)
New York: Scholastic.
Based on actual historical events, Gratzs novel Refugee interlaces the stories of a Jewish boy escaping Nazi Germany in 1938 for Cuba, a Cuban girl seeking refuge in the United States in 1994, and a Syrian boy fleeing to Germany in 2015. With its fast-paced, adventurous plot and surprising turns, this young adult novel is an exciting read. Moving between different storylines, continents and histories, it produces a multi-strand narrative of child displacement, which personalizes faraway suffering while uncovering global networks of both dehumanization and humanity. As such, Refugee offers material for raising awareness of the importance of understanding history and the interconnectedness of different historical and national contexts. In its political agenda, the novel reads as an indictment of the blindness to the plight of strangers in far-off countries, endorsing...

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