In Search of Safety: Voices of Refugees

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In Search of Safety: Voices of Refugees
Words and Photographs by Susan Kuklin
Candlewick Press, April 2020
978-0763679606 hardcover, Buy now
9781799731047 audiobook, Buy now
E-book: Kindle  NOOK
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CCBC Best of the Year, 2021

Five refugees recount their courageous journeys to America – and the unimaginable struggles that led them to flee their homelands.

“From 1984, when I was born, until July 16, 2017, when I arrived in the United States, I never lived in a place where there was no war.” Fraidoon

The five refugees featured in In Search of Safety are from Afghanistan, Northern Iraq, Myanmar, South Sudan, and Burundi. Fraidoon had been a translator for the U.S. Military. Shireen recently escaped the horrors of captivity at the hands of ISIS. Nathan, Nyarout, and Dieudonné spent years in refugee camps. They all survived wars. They were all carefully screened by several security organizations, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the United States State Department, and the United States Department of Homeland Security. They have all been resettled in the state of Nebraska where they have been warmly welcomed. This book tells their stories.

dieudonne and family

Sample Chapter
Dieudonné, center in photo at right, was four years old when he and his family were forced to leave their home in Burundi for a refugee camp in Tanzania. Now, he’s all grown up, living with his wife Rheine and their son Davin in Omaha, Nebraska. It’s always a pleasure spending time with Dieudonné and his family and friends. This photograph was recently taken by my husband after church service. We are a family.

Read this sample chapter with Dieudonné’s story.


“Chronicles the painful, yet powerfully uplifting, stories of five refugees who came to the U.S. in search of a better future. The people sharing their stories are Shireen, a Yazidi woman from Iraq who was sold into sex slavery by the Islamic State group; Nyarout, a Nuer woman from South Sudan who grew up in civil war and famine; Fraidoon, a Tajik man from Afghanistan living under the threat of a fatwa; Nathan, a Karen man from Myanmar who was born in a refugee camp in Thailand; and Dieudonné, a Hutu and Tutsi man from Burundi who fled ethnic cleansing at age 4. Written in a forthright and unembellished manner and not for the faint of heart, this book will find its place among essential readings for understanding the devastating toll conflicts have on populations throughout the world. It is also a beautiful testimony—a lesson in life, really—to the power of resilience and will to survive displayed by each of the five protagonists, now resettled in Nebraska. Kuklin, who has previously written about similar issues (see 2019’s We Are Here To Stay), does a brilliant job of capturing and transmitting the gripping, often raw, but always hopeful first-person testimonies, and readers cannot help but feel empathy for the individuals as they learn the horrors they survived (but never overcame, in some cases). A brutal, must-read account. (maps, sources, author’s note, chapter notes, timelines, resources, index) (Nonfiction. 14-18)—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"In straightforward prose, this latest work by Kuklin (We Are Here to Stay) introduces five people who left all they knew to escape persecution in their home countries: Fraidoon, from Afghanistan; Nathan, born in a Thai refugee camp; Nyarout, from South Sudan; Shireen, from Northern Iraq; and Dieudonné, from Burundi. Each offers clear, often disturbing stories of events leading up to their escapes and established lives in the United States, where arrival presented its own challenges. The firsthand accounts of war, abduction into sex slavery, torture, and loss can be difficult to read, but they make plain the desperate plight of people seeking asylum, making this work an important addition to any collection. Each story is accompanied by explanatory text from the author, along with photographs that acquaint the reader with the refugee and their circumstances. Back matter provides information on the resettling process, agencies mentioned, and a historical timeline for each country."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“…The emotional success story of each triumphant refugee is captured wholeheartedly by the author, allowing the reader to celebrate alongside the author and her subjects…The book calls attention to problems in countries at war and how people can seek help, become a citizen, or resettle in the United States through certain agencies.”—School Library Journal, recommended

“…The circumstances of all five refugees were perilous and frightening; their tenacity and courage (and even humor) are salutary. An exemplary appendix of notes and resources broadens the impact of the individual accounts; the accounts themselves personalize the crisis and statistics.”—The Horn Book

“This continues Kuklin’s substantial body of nonfiction centering the lives of marginalized individuals…. The narratives are presented in first person, presumably told to Kuklin, which lends a poignant immediacy to the text. Readers learn about the causes of conflict in each person’s homeland and the growing pressures that have led to their flights; the reasons for forced migration are varied and various. Maps, timelines, and other supplemental back matter provide context. Candid and posed photographs add valuable visual information. A significant theme threading through the stories is how long and involved the refugee resettlement experience is, usually taking years, reams of paperwork, and constant diligence on the part of every person involved. A necessary addition to middle-school curriculum.”—Booklist

“…Illustrated with full-color photographs of the refugees’ new lives in Nebraska, this work is essential reading for understanding the devastating impact of war and persecution — and the power of resilience, optimism, and the will to survive…”—

Websites of interest from the book:
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
“The fundamental constitutional protections of due process and equal protection embodied in our Constitution and Bill of Rights apply to every person, regardless of immigration status…The ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project is dedicated to expanding and enforcing the civil liberties and civil rights of immigrants and to combating public and private discrimination against them.”

Human Rights Watch
“Human Rights Watch’s Refugee Rights Program defends the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, and displaced people worldwide. We respond to emergencies as well as chronic situations, focusing especially on documenting government efforts to block access to asylum, to deprive asylum seekers of rights to fair hearings of their refugee claims, and to the forcible return of people to places where their lives or freedom would be threatened. We conduct on-the-ground investigations to speak with uprooted people and document abuses against them. We take our findings directly to policymakers and the media as we advocate for governments to improve access to asylum, to stop forced returns, and to ensure that all migrants are treated with dignity and regard for their basic human rights.”

International Refugee Assistance Project
The International Refugee Assistance Project “organizes law students and lawyers to develop and enforce a set of legal and human rights for refugees and displaced persons.”

International Rescue Committee
The International Rescue Committee “responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and regain control of their future.”

Lutheran Family Services
Lutheran Family Services has branches across the U.S. The Nebraska branch’s mission is to “express God’s love for all people by providing quality human care services that build and strengthen individual, family, and community life.”

National Immigration Law Center
NILC is “dedicated to defending and advancing the rights of immigrants with low income.”

The Refugee Law Reader
The Refugee Law Reader: Cases, Documents and Materials is a comprehensive online model curriculum for the study of the complex and rapidly evolving field of international refugee law, covering Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe. The Reader is for professors, lawyers, advocates, and students across a wide range of national jurisdictions.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
“UNHCR, the U.N. Refugee Agency, is a global organization dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities, and stateless people.”

World Food Program
“WFP is the leading humanitarian organization fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. As the international community has committed to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition by 2030, one in nine people worldwide still do not have enough to eat. Food and food-related assistance lie at the heart of the struggle to break the cycle of hunger and poverty.”

Yazda Global Organization
Yazda is a multinational association that began after the Yazidi Genocide in 2014. Yazda’s goal is to “build a stronger Yazidi community that can socially and culturally integrate into the U.S. and to preserve the Yazidi culture at the same time.”