When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed
This review was originally posted at Goodreads and imported here later on with next to no spell/grammar checking.
“No one chooses to be a refugee, to leave their home, country and family.”
Omar and Hassan are two brothers who had to flee their home, destroyed by an unending civil war and ended up in a refugee camp in Kenya, waiting for their mother to find them. These camps are supposed to be temporary, but they’d arrived 7 years ago.
When Stars Are Scattered is a wonderful story. One of hope and despair, frustrations and joy, conflicting responsibilities and the ever-present waiting for something to change. For their mother to show up. For the war to end. For being selected for relocation. For the next food rations.
This could have been a really grim book (and such stories do indeed need telling), but chose not to be. Instead of a hyper-realistic depiction of all the horrors, it focuses on the human side. The games, the school, the chores and schedule. The neighbours. And that even in such an inhospitable environment, there is time and place for love, care, helping one another, art and everything else human beings do.
But the suffering is always there, implicit in the whole situations as well as explicit within the camps.
The comic book is beautifully drawn — in a simple but wonderful style. Particularly the faces make the characters come alive and make you believe what they’re feeling.
I’ve read it in a single sitting and I was on the verge of tears the whole time reading it. Fell in love with the boys instantly and really cared for all the people there. A lot of the public discourse around refugees and foreigners focuses on the negatives and attempts to dehumanise them — often intentionally. This is a wonderful antidote — a book full of actual people, living their lives and striving for a better tomorrow just like everyone else.