The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees
by Don Brown
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018
In 2016, Don Brown won a Sibert Honor for Drowned City, the nonfiction graphic novel about Hurricane Katrina. Brown's latest nonfiction graphic novel brings attention to the Syrian refugee crisis of present day. What makes this nonfiction book unique is that the Syrian Civil War is still happening as the book hits shelves.
The Unwanted begins in 2011 and illustrates the brutal regime in Syria. Individual rise up and speak against Assad. Groups gather in the streets. "Down with the regime" is painted on walls. The text is the perfect balance of captions containing background information and speech bubbles with dialogue. Muted colors help set the somber tone. Brown does not shy away from the horrific treatment of people in Syria. Some of the most powerful and darkest pages illustrate the perilous journey by boat as Syrians try to reach Greece. The book ends on a hopeful note with the idea that the future is for the children. Back matter is lengthy and includes a bibliography as well as source notes for the dialogue.
The Unwanted should be purchased for libraries and classrooms to inform teens (and adults) about the conflict in Syria and the ongoing refugee crisis. Books are a powerful way to spread empathy and compassion, and The Unwanted will help put a human face on a terrible conflict affecting thousands of innocent families. Pair with the fiction title, A Land of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi.