City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World's Largest Refugee Camp (Hardcover)

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A lot has been written this year on the plight of refugees and their host countries. Rawlence provides us with an on the ground perspective from one of the world’s longest running refugee camps. Dadaab, Kenya has been the home to many refugees since 1991, and more refugees arrive each year. The more people that read these storie’s the better chance today’s refugees have of escaping the possibility of living a life without a country.

— Justin, Atlanta


Named a 2016 Best of Book of the Year by The Economist

To the charity workers, Dadaab refugee camp is a humanitarian crisis; to the Kenyan government, it is a 'nursery for terrorists'; to the western media, it is a dangerous no-go area; but to its half a million residents, it is their last resort.

Situated hundreds of miles from any other settlement, deep within the inhospitable desert of northern Kenya where only thorn bushes grow, Dadaab is a city like no other. Its buildings are made from mud, sticks or plastic, its entire economy is grey, and its citizens survive on rations and luck. Over the course of four years, Ben Rawlence became a first-hand witness to a strange and desperate limbo-land, getting to know many of those who have come there seeking sanctuary. Among them are Guled, a former child soldier who lives for football; Nisho, who scrapes an existence by pushing a wheelbarrow and dreaming of riches; Tawane, the indomitable youth leader; and schoolgirl Kheyro, whose future hangs upon her education.

In City of Thorns, Rawlence interweaves the stories of nine individuals to show what life is like in the camp and to sketch the wider political forces that keep the refugees trapped there. Rawlence combines intimate storytelling with broad socio-political investigative journalism, doing for Dadaab what Katherinee Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers did for the Mumbai slums. Lucid, vivid and illuminating, City of Thorns is an urgent human story with deep international repercussions, brought to life through the people who call Dadaab home.

About the Author

BEN RAWLENCE is a former researcher for Human Rights Watch in the horn of Africa. He is the author of Radio Congo and has written for a wide range of publications, including The Guardian, the London Review of Books, and Prospect. He lives in the Black Mountains in Wales with his wife and daughter.

Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9781250067630
ISBN-10: 1250067634
Publisher: Picador USA
Publication Date: January 5th, 2016
Pages: 400
Language: English