This book is all about my life's passion. (I'm the 'Brandy' in the book).
Whether due to war or political repression, students are often persecuted, imprisoned or forced into exile, joining the ranks of the world's estimated 16 million refugees and asylum seekers. They have virtually no opportunity for post-secondary education. In 2008, Debi Goodwin, documentary producer and former CBC journalist, followed 11 of those displaced students on their journeys through the WUSC Student Refugee Program which took them from one of three refugee camps in Dadaab, Kenya to one of ten university campuses in Canada.
Citizens of Nowhere, with its five distinct sections, is not a light read. Each of the 11 students has a heart-wrenching story that brought them to the camp; a tale that Goodwin tells, each time, with grace and tact. As the students prepare to leave their families behind in the confines of the camps and make the long journey to their new, better, homes, mixed emotions fill the pages. Once in Canada, the Dadaab 11 live through an abundance of firsts and deal with their, often times, self-inflicted feelings of segregation. In the final two parts of the book, Goodwin explores the students' thoughts and hopes for their futures.
Despite having the difficult task of telling the story of not one, but 11 refugees, Goodwin finds a way to incorporate the joy and excitement that each of the three women and eight men experience. Citizens of Nowhere is a masterpiece of emotion in its ability to bring readers to tears at one moment and leave them roaring with laughter at the next.
In her book, Citizens of Nowhere, Goodwin gives a voice to the millions of refugees worldwide by telling the stories of the Dadaab 11. She joins humanitarians worldwide when she writes: "Donors, it seems, have forgotten the people in these camps and are more likely to send their money to aid current crises that they see pop up on their television screens." Hopefully this book, and these stories, will bring the much needed attention and assistance that the millions of protracted refugees so desperately need.