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City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World's Largest Refugee Camp
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Published:
Picador 2016
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Description

Finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize
Named a Best of Book of the Year by The Economist and Foreign Affairs
Los Angeles Times
Book Prize Finalist
The Dadaab refugee camp is many things: to the charity workers, it's a humanitarian crisis; to the Kenyan government, a "nursery for terrorists"; to the Western media, a dangerous no-go area. But to its half a million residents, it's 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 firsthand witness to a strange and desperate place, getting to know many of those who had come 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 Kheyro, a student 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, sketching the wider political forces that keep the refugees trapped. Lucid, vivid, and illuminating, City of Thorns is an urgent human story with deep international repercussions, brought to life through the people who call Dabaab home.

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
01/05/2016
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781250067647
ASIN:
B00V35U45M

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Citations

APA Citation (style guide)

Ben Rawlence. (2016). City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World's Largest Refugee Camp. Picador.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Ben Rawlence. 2016. City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World's Largest Refugee Camp. Picador.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Ben Rawlence, City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World's Largest Refugee Camp. Picador, 2016.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Ben Rawlence. City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World's Largest Refugee Camp. Picador, 2016.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.

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      • bioText: Ben Rawlence is a former researcher for Human Rights Watch in the horn of Africa. He is the author of City of Thorns and Radio Congo and has written for a wide range of publications, including The Guardian, the London Review of Books, and Prospect. He is the founder and director of Black Mountains College and lives with his family in Wales.
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fullDescription

Finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize
Named a Best of Book of the Year by The Economist and Foreign Affairs
Los Angeles Times
Book Prize Finalist
The Dadaab refugee camp is many things: to the charity workers, it's a humanitarian crisis; to the Kenyan government, a "nursery for terrorists"; to the Western media, a dangerous no-go area. But to its half a million residents, it's 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 firsthand witness to a strange and desperate place, getting to know many of those who had come 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 Kheyro, a student 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, sketching the wider political forces that keep the refugees trapped. Lucid, vivid, and illuminating, City of Thorns is an urgent human story with deep international repercussions, brought to life through the people who call Dabaab home.

reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: The Sunday Times (London)
      • content:

        "[Rawlence] has done a remarkable job, bringing home the reality behind those statistics by telling us what life is really like inside one of those camps... Rawlence's description of the camp economy is fascinating and shocking... A masterful account. Next time someone refers derisively to a 'bunch of migrants,' get them to read this book."

      • premium: False
      • source: The New York Times Book Review
      • content: "[A]remarkable book.... Like Dadaab itself, the story has no conclusion. Iti is a portrait, beautifully and moving painted. And it is more than that. At a time when newspapers are filled with daily images of refugees arriving in boats on Europe's shores, when politicians and governments grapple with solutions to migration and erect ever larger walls and fences, it is an important reminder that a vast majority of the world's refugees never get as far as a boat or a border of the developed world."
      • premium: False
      • source: Los Angeles Times
      • content: "Magisterial....We see Dadaab through an accumulation of vivid impressions....[The book] moves like a thriller."
      • premium: False
      • source: Howard French, The Wall Street Journal
      • content: "The most absorbing book in recent memory about life in refugee camps... Mr. Rawlence's major feat is stripping away the anonymity that so often is attached to the word "refugee" by delving deeply into the lives of nine people in the camp. By doing so, he transforms its denizens from faceless victims into three-dimensional human beings. Along the way, Dadaab emerges from the ever-present heat and dust to become much more than a refugee camp. It is a real, if very peculiar, city."
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        Starred review from August 24, 2015
        Rawlence (Radio Congo), who worked in Africa for Human Rights Watch between 2006 and 2012, brings to horrifying life the conditions in the U.N.-administered refugee camp in Dadaab, a town in northern Kenya. By combining his own experiences with interviews with residents of Dadaab, he makes the human rights crisis—rarely covered in the media—vivid and immediate for readers. Rawlence delves into the stories of nine people, putting particular emphasis on Guled, who was born in Mogadishu in 1993 at the same time as the downing of two American Black Hawk helicopters. Rawlence describes how the Black Hawk wreckage became a play area for Guled, foreshadowing his life of deprivation and struggle, mostly within the confines of Dadaab. These and other telling details will resonate with readers long after they finish the book. Rawlence eloquently expresses his moral outrage at the conditions Guled and others endure, as when he notes that a “refugee camp has the structure of punishment without the crime,” running on “visibility and control—the same principles that guide a prison.” This is a compelling examination of the tragedy of a place where one “can only survive... by imagining a life elsewhere.” 5 b&w maps. Agent: Sophie Lambert, Conville & Walsh (U.K.).

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        October 1, 2015
        Former Human Rights Watch researcher Rawlence (Radio Congo: Signals of Hope from Africa's Deadliest War, 2012) tells the distressing story of Kenya's vast Dadaab refugee camp, where nearly 500,000 people fleeing civil war in nearby Somalia live in a "teeming ramshackle metropolis" the size of Atlanta. Drawing on hundreds of interviews conducted during a series of extended visits to Dadaab since 2010, the author plunges readers into this hellish city of "mud, tents and thorns," where three generations of displaced persons have lived amid malnourishment and disease. With remarkable intimacy, Rawlence recounts the stories of nine individuals, including Guled, a former child soldier, and his wife, Maryam; Nisho, who finds work as a porter; and Muna, a beautiful, independent woman who was one of the first Somalis to arrive in the camp. As he weaves this complex, densely detailed narrative, Rawlence reveals the humanity of these people in crisis who must struggle to survive in the overcrowded camp]run by the Kenyan government with United Nations funding]where bribery, rape, robbery, kidnapping, and cultural clashes are commonplace. While Kenyan leaders demonize the refugees and want them out, local politicians, military, and police all benefit from exploiting the refugees in Dadaab and in Somalia. For their part, those living in the camp remain mired in "a culture centered on leaving"; they long to resettle in Canada, the United States]any country that will take them. "There was a crime here on an industrial scale," writes the author, who intersperses his story to cover outbursts of international concern, evinced by visiting celebrities and TV reporters and meetings of international and humanitarian-aid leaders striving to understand the "refugee crisis." The disjuncture between the harsh realities of life in the camps and the view from the boardrooms of world power centers is extraordinary and damning. A significant, timely, and gloomy tale that reveals the human costs of a growing world crisis.

        COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        Starred review from January 1, 2016

        Rawlence (Radio Congo) humanizes the refugee experience in East Africa by focusing on a cross-section of nine refugees from Dadaab, a camp in Kenya close to the border of Somalia that began in 1992 and has grown to the size of Atlanta, with nearly half a million residents. During the 2011 famine in that region, 260,000 people in Dadaab died. Rawlence focuses on this theoretically impermanent shelter for refugees that has become a permanent home for families, for child soldiers forced into the militant al-Shabaab Somalian group linked to al-Qaida, and for the NGOs and UN workers managing the relief work there. The situation in the camp and the surrounding countries is complex and somewhat unknown to American readers. Rawlence effectively penetrates this complexity by exploring Dadaab through the lives of nine of its residents, all of whom have hopes, are beginning families or are struggling to feed and care for them, are trying to get access to more education, and are resisting the financial stability offered by fundamentalist militias such as al-Shabaab. VERDICT Essential for humanists, those who are contemplating the struggles of refugees worldwide, and those interested in how humanitarian aid and other international efforts impact those in the midst of crisis. [See Prepub Alert, 7/20/15.]--Candice Kail, Columbia Univ. Libs., New York

        Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        Starred review from November 15, 2015
        The saga of Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya, the City of Thorns of the title, reveals the sort of intersection between humanity's greatest nightmares and triumphs that seems to belong more to fiction than to the real world. That Rawlence has managed to capture so much of this unlikely city's chaos and confusion in a narrative that is very nearly impossible to put down is an achievement in reportage that few have matched. Dadaab's half a million residents could not have asked for a better champion than this researcher for Human Rights Watch, and while the facts and figures he shares are stunning, it is the nine individuals whose stories he focuses on who give the book its heart. Their nearly insurmountable struggle for the most basic of human dignities, the right to work and love and live in peace, will make readers yearn to know more about the politics of international aid and the rights of refugees. Comparisons to Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers (2012) are spot-on. Rawlence has written a book that just might change the world or, at the very least, awaken readers to one criminally forgotten corner of it. A tour de force.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2015, American Library Association.)

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Finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize
Named a Best of Book of the Year by The Economist and Foreign Affairs
Los Angeles Times
Book Prize Finalist
The Dadaab refugee camp is many things: to the charity workers, it's a humanitarian crisis; to the Kenyan government, a "nursery for terrorists"; to the Western media, a dangerous no-go area. But to its half a million residents, it's 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 firsthand witness to a strange and desperate place, getting to know many of those who had come seeking sanctuary. Among them are Guled, a former child soldier who lives for football; Nisho, who...

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Nine Lives in the World's Largest Refugee Camp
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      • description: Political Science / World / African
      • code: SOC066000
      • description: Social Science / Refugees