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Profiling the Lives of Refugees

Ben Lawrence, author of the gut-wrenching ‘City of Thorns,’ at University School

Sep. 6, 2016
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In 1991, the Dadaab refugee camp was established to house up to 90,000 residents. Today, this desolate landscape in northern Kenya is home to almost half-a-million primarily Somali refugees fleeing war, terrorism, famine and climate change. Over the past quarter century, Dadaab has gained the dubious title as the world’s largest refugee camp, becoming an unstable, overcrowded and inhospitable home to citizens struggling to survive in harsh, desperate conditions.


In author Ben Rawlence’s heart-wrenching narrative, City of Thorns, he profiles the lives of some of Dadaab’s residents. There is Guled, a former child soldier who fled Somalia to escape al-Shabaab terrorists; Tawane, a youth leader who was raised on the humanitarian promises of a better tomorrow; and Kheyro, a student and later a teacher who maintains a positive belief that her studies can transport her out of the camp. By interweaving the daily lives of nine residents of Dadaab into a searing yet hopeful narrative, Rawlence, who spent four years in Dadaab as a researcher and staff member for Human Rights Watch, paints a dramatic and intimate portrait of the realities of camp life and the individuals who make their home in this barren desert.


In City of Thorns, Ben Rawlence combines intimate storytelling with in-depth political journalism to shed light on some of the world’s forgotten refugees. He will speak at University School of Milwaukee (2100 W. Fairy Chasm Road, River Hills) at 7 p.m., on Tuesday, Sept. 13. This free event will take place in Mellowes Hall and is co-sponsored by Boswell Book Co.


Book Happening:


James and Aidan Campbell

7 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 8

Boswell Book Co.

2559 N. Downer Ave.


In Braving It, adventure writer James Campbell chronicles three separate trips he took with his teenage daughter, Aidan, into the rugged interior of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The father-daughter duo endured clouds of mosquitos, sub-zero temperatures and grueling physical conditions as they journeyed through a disappearing landscape that is home to only a handful of people. In Braving It, Campbell combines a thrilling travelogue with a touching coming-of-age narrative to create a dynamic and beautiful tale. 


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