8 Works of Art By Refugees You Should Check Out

Updated: Jul 2




"A Land of Permanent Goodbyes" by Atia Abawi (2018)

Country: Syria


Atia Abawi is a journalist who wrote a fictional novel about Syria based on real events, research, and interviews. The novel focuses on the main character Tareq, who escapes the bombs that destroyed his city and travels through multiple countries as a refugee. This book provides insight into the Syrian war and the refugee crisis due to it.



"Call Me American" by Abdi Nor Iftin (2019)

Country: Somalia


Abdi Nor Iftin lived in Mogadishu, Somalia when the United States Marines landed to fight the warlords. After the rise of al-Shabaab, it became dangerous to continue to believe in Western culture and ideals as Iftin did. Iftin’s opposition and posting of secret dispatches forced him to flee to Kenya to escape the militant group. Iftin received a visa to the U.S. thanks to the annual lottery, and he is now building a life in Maine. This novel discusses one refugee’s journey to the United States, and the dangers he faced while getting there.



"What is the What" by Dave Eggers (2006)

Country: Sudan


Dave Eggers, a writer from Atlanta, met Valentino Achak Deng through the Lost Boys Foundation. Achak was a refugee originally from Sudan but traveled over 1,000 miles to Ethiopia in his youth to escape war, starvation, and murder. Achak told Eggers his story orally, and Eggers wrote a novel based on Achak’s experiences. What is the What tells the story of a young boy’s journey to safety as well as the complex history of Sudan.



“The Sympathizer” by Viet Thanh Nguyen (2015)

Country: Vietnam


Nguyen’s family escaped Vietnam in 1975 and lived in a Pennsylvania refugee camp before settling in Harrisburg. This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel brings a Vietnamese voice to the Vietnam War Conversation. The main character explains, “this was the first war where the losers would write history instead of the victors.” This novel applies fresh eyes to a war now known only through one view.



13 Artists On: Immigration | Gallery by The New York Times


This New York Times gallery of art by refugee and immigrant artists tells stories of people from all over the world. Whether the artists themselves are immigrants or their family has faced crises, these works of art reflect sentiments around living as a refugee and immigrant in the United States.



'We never chose this' | Gallery by The Guardian


In connection with the Hope Project, these photos by refugees seek to reframe how the world sees the lives of refugees everywhere, promoting dignity, resilience, and hope for a better future. Each piece is accompanied by a reflection from the artist.



Midnight Traveler by Hassan Fazili


This film follows the Fazili family through their dangerous trek through Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria, and Serbia, and away from danger. Shot on a phone, the viewer gets a real look at the challenges that refugees may face when searching for a safe place to live.


Dear Habib by Habib and Majid Adin


Dear Habib is a short animation sharing the true story of a young, unaccompanied child migrant called Habib. Co-produced by Habib himself, along with Majid Adin and PositiveNegatives. The animation brings to life the incredible challenges, and opportunities, that young unaccompanied child migrants face.


We encourage you to explore these pieces and continue learning about refugee crises and refugee stories. Let us know what you think and share with us a piece of art by a refugee by emailing us at contact@americancivic.com.


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