Refugee Boy – Benjamin Zephaniah

Published July 11, 2013 by booksforbirds2013

As the family lay sleeping
   soldiers kicked down
  the door of the house
       and entered
waving their rifles round

Life is not safe for Alem. His father is Ethiopian, his mother Etriean and with both countries at war, he is welcome in neither place.

So his father does an astonishing thing, which at first appears callous, but is in fact the ultimate gift of love from a parent to their child…

Alem and his father Mr. Kelo arrive in England on a trademark day. The entire world of the UK new to Alem. The book, being from Alem’s point of view, is in a way simplistic, but makes it more so real. As the situation IS real to many people. When his father seems to abandon Alem at the hotel where they were staying, he receives a letter, from his father, explaining the reasons why he did what he did.

With war ravaging his homelands Alem is out into the care of the state, he begins his journey first at a care home, where he finds out not everything is well. After getting into a fight with the bully of the children’s home, Alem makes to leave, but returns, in the end.

It was then that Alem got fostered into a home by the Fitzgerald’s and got to experience English schooling. Getting knocked down on his first day by a boy, Robert, who becomes a close friend. Still in contact with his father via letter Alem finds out something that I believe can be the hardest to put into words; the death of his mother.

All the while Alem and his social workers are trying to get his Asylum Request accepted. Then there’s a twist, his father comes to the country, he and Alem are together again. But since Alem’s asylum request got refused there was an appeal, meaning he had to go to court and with his father being a refugee as well both cases were combined.

With his friends fighting for him and his father, hope is brought up for them all. Sadly the ending isn’t a happy one for Alem’s father.

This was such a heart-touching tale that I was tearing up at the end ’cause I had a hunch of what was going to happen. Zephaniah has created a young man who is brave in prejudice and has a shining spirit despite all the bad things that have happened to him. A powerful and moving novel, a must read for all.

Rating 7/10

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