Humanitarian Traces of
Angelina Jolie

Suggestions for topic-related books


                                       Butterfly: From Refugee to Olympian, My Story of Rescue, Hope, and Triumph ( 2018)                              


"Being a refugee is not a choice. Our choice is to die at home or risk death trying to escape." - Yusra Mardini

An autobiography by Yusra Mardini, who, in the summer of 2015 while fleeing the conflict in Syria with her sister, traveled through Lebanon to Turkey before departing for Greece in an overcrowded dinghy. Realizing the boat she was traveling on had engine problems, she dove into the water and swam for three and a half hours in open water to stop the dinghy from capsizing, saving the lives of 20 people.

Yusra Mardini became a member of the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team. She now lives in Berlin and aims to compete at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020. Yusra is a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.


                                       First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers (2000)

First They Killed My Father chronicles the brutality of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, from the Ung's forced "evacuation" of Phnom Penh in 1975, to her family's subsequent movements from town to town and eventual separation fleeing Pol Pot’s regime.

Loung Ung was only 5 years old when Khmer Rouge soldiers stormed her native city of Phnom Penh.  In 1980, Loung, her older brother Meng and his wife, escaped by boat to Thailand, where they spent five months in a refugee camp before relocating to the United States. In 2017 the Netflix original movie based on her book and directed by Angelina Jolie, actress and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Special Envoy, was released.

                                      The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears (2007) 


Seventeen years ago, Sepha Stephanos fled the Ethiopian Revolution for a new start in the United States. Now he finds himself running a failing grocery store in a poor African-American section of Washington, D.C., his only companions two fellow African immigrants who share his bitter nostalgia and longing for his home continent. Years ago and worlds away Sepha could never have imagined a life of such isolation. As his environment begins to change, hope comes in the form of a friendship with new neighbors Judith and Naomi, a white woman and her biracial daughter. But when a series of racial incidents disturbs the community, Sepha may lose everything all over again.

Dinaw Mengestu was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. His father was a refugee who fled as a result of the Ethiopian Red Terror in the late 1970s. Mengestu is a recipient of a 5 Under 35 award from the National Book Foundation and a 20 Under 40 award from The New Yorker, as well as a 2012 MacArthur Foundation genius grant and currently lives in NY City.  

                                       The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After (2018)

Recounts the author's harrowing experiences as a young child during the Rwanda massacres, which separated her from her parents and forced her and her sister to endure six years as refugees in seven countries before she was granted asylum in America.

Clemantine Wamariya was born in Kigali, Rwanda. President Obama appointed her to the board of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, making her the youngest board member in the organization’s history. The Girl Who Smiled Beads was a New York Times bestseller and long-listed for the Andrew Carnegie Medal of Excellent for nonfiction.

                                      Goodbye Sarajevo: A True Story of Courage, Love and Survival (2012)

A memoir of two girls living through the horrors of the Bosnian war. Hana is just 12 years old when her older sister Atka, 21, puts her on a UN evacuation bus fleeing the besieged city of Sarajevo. Hana is forced to cope as a refugee in Croatia, far away from home and family, while Atka stayed on in Sarajevo looking after her 5 youngest siblings.

Atka Reid was born in Sarajevo in 1970. During the war, she worked as a reporter for a local radio station and as an interpreter for the foreign press. She would later relocate to New Zealand. Hana Schofield was born in Sarajevo in 1979. She spent two years living as a refugee in Croatia during the siege of Sarajevo. She lives in Auckland.

                                      The House of the Mosque (2011)

Chronicles the Iranian Revolution as told through the eyes of one family.

Kader Abdolah (a pen name) fled his homeland in 1985 and arrived in the Netherlands as a political refugee in 1988. He has written and published four books. In 1997, he received the Dutch Media Prize for his collected columns.

                                      The Lightless Sky: A Twelve-Year-Old's Refugee Harrowing Escape From Afghanistan and His Extraordinary Journey                                        Across Half the World  (2017)

At the age of 12, Passarlay fled the war in Afghanistan across eight countries, from the mountains of eastern Afghanistan through Iran and Europe to Britain over the course of twelve months. His story includes enduring imprisonment, hunger, cruelty, brutality, loneliness, and terror, and nearly drowning crossing the Mediterranean Sea before reaching and being granted asylum in the United Kingdom.

Gulwali Passarlay is an Afghan refugee currently residing in the UK. Gulwali was chosen to help carry the Olympic Torch in the 2012 London Games.

                                      Music of Ghosts  (2017)

Teera was forced to flee Cambodia as a child. Decades later she returns to find a society still in turmoil, where survivors of violence live side by side with those who committed heinous acts of violence.

Vaddey Ratner  Ratner was only five years old when the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975. After four years, having endured forced labor, starvation, and near execution, she and her mother escaped to Missouri, United States.

                                      The Pianist from Syria: A Memoir  (2019)

During the height of the conflict in Syria, Ahmad turns to his piano to bring himself and those around him comfort, playing it in the street until it becomes too dangerous for him to stay. The story recounts his escape from war-torn Syria, drawing on first-person perspectives and is a gripping portrait of his search for a peaceful life for him and his family.

Aeham Ahmad was born in Damascus, Syria in 1988. He was forced to flee from the conflict via Turkey, Greece, Serbia, Croatia, and Austria until he resettled permanently in Germany.

                                       The Refugees (2017)

The Refugees is a collection of eight stories, mostly set in Vietnamese communities in California, that tell the stories of Vietnamese refugee experiences in the United States.  The topics the writers explore -- relationships, grief, the desire for fulfillment -- speak to the human experience and the experiences of refugees in America.

Viet Thanh Nguyen escaped from Vietnam with his family after the fall of Saigon, fleeing to Pennsylvania when he was only four years old.

                                      Sea Prayer (2018)

Sea Prayer is written in the form of a father's letter to his young son on the eve of a dangerous journey.  It was written to commemorate the death of Alan Kurdi, a young Syrian boy who drowned in September 2015 trying to reach Greece.

Khaled Hosseini is a former refugee from Kabul, Afghanistan whose family sought and were granted political asylum in the United States, and in September 1980 moved to San Jose, California. His books have been published in over seventy countries and sold more than 40 million copies worldwide. In 2006 Khaled was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

                                      The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur (2009)

Recounts the author's life during the violent conflict in Sudan. He would eventually flee the violence seeking refuge in Chad and becoming a translator and guide working with a range of news organizations and the United Nations.

Daoud Hari was born in the Darfur region of Sudan. After escaping an attack on his village, where his village was burned to the ground, he eventually found safety across the border in refugee camps in Chad and soon began serving as a translator for major news organizations as well as the United Nations and other aid groups. He now lives in the United States.