Borough Press to publish novel depicting Syrian refugee crisis

2nd Feb 2016

An Unsafe Haven
Syria’s refugee crisis has claimed the lives of more than 320,000 people, with over 11 million having fled their homes as a result of the conflict.

Behind these devastating figures, there are, of course, individual lives, struggles and hopes. This has led non-fiction and fiction writers to try to give voice to the refugees involved. Borough Press announced yesterday that they will be publishing a new novel by the Commonwealth Writers Prize winner, Nada Awar Jarrar, inspired by the crisis and its effects. This follows the news of Weidenfeld & Nicolson’s plans to publish Jonathan Dean’s “meditation on what it means to be a refugee,” I Must Belong Somewhere, in 2017.

Jarrar’s book, An Unsafe Haven, is set in modern Beirut and follows the Syrian refugee crisis through the eyes of four characters. Jarrar was born in Lebanon but, twenty years ago, was forced to flee the country when civil war broke out. She is currently based in Beirut. Cassie Browne, commissioning editor at Borough Press, said of the acquisition:

This is a novel written with courage and sensitivity“I am extremely proud to be publishing Nada Awar Jarrar’s An Unsafe Haven. Her unique perspective on contemporary Lebanon and the effects of the Syrian war has produced an extraordinarily eloquent novel about the struggles of a region that are lived out in the daily routines of Beirut’s people. The sense of utter displacement woven through is keenly felt, and makes for a heartrending reading experience. This is a novel written with courage and sensitivity.”

This is, of course, far from the first time that authors have engaged with the Syrian crisis. These publication announcements follow the hugely successful Buy Books for Syria campaign, which Waterstones launched in-store at the start of October 2015. The campaign has seen leading authors, including Hilary Mantel, Jacqueline Wilson, Victoria Hislop and Ali Smith forgoing their earnings on selected books of theirs sold in branches. The proceeds of these book sales are then donated in full to the Oxfam Syria Crisis appeal, which aims to raise money to provide aid and long-term support to the hundreds of thousands of people affected by the crisis. The campaign has now almost reached its 1 million pound target.

Prior to that in September, Patrick Ness launched a fundraising page to raise money to address the crisis, which saw writers from Marian Keyes to Philip Pullman, publishers to the general public pledging money to the cause. The running total to date is just shy of £700,000.

The success of these initiatives show the dedication of writers and readers to the cause of raising money for the appeal but there has clearly now been a further commitment from the publishing industry to engage with and present the stories of those who are involved.