Over and over again in the last several years refugee advocates have lamented the fact that many people think of refugees as a mass of the desperate and needy, instead of considering the individual, complex stories that each refugee has lived through. A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea, by Melissa Fleming, a refugee advocate herself, is an attempt to share the story of one of the millions of refugees displaced around the world.

A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea was published in January 2017 and tells the story of Doaa, a Syrian refugee who survived four days adrift in the Mediterranean after her boat capsized. The greatest strength of the book is that it includes the history and background of the Syrian conflict, which is extremely valuable for those who may not understand how the conflict really began. Overall, the book is fast-paced, easy to read, and engaging from beginning to end. If you want to learn more about the Syrian civil war, but news articles and history books sound far too dull, I would highly recommend A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea.

While it is an excellent resource for learning about the Syrian conflict and the various ways in which Syrian refugees have been affected by it, I found that the book fell flat in a different way. I had been hoping to hear Doaa’s story from her own perspective, and in her own words, but as I continued to read, I realized that her voice would not be present in the book. A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea is narrated in the third person by Fleming, and while there is an attempt to inject Doaa’s thoughts and feelings into the narrative, it ends up sounding a bit hollow at times.

As a fellow refugee advocate and someone who is studying forced migration from anthropological and sociological perspectives, I was disappointed that Fleming chose to write a book that would rely on a non-refugee to tell the story of the displaced. Though A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea was informative, I hope that in the future we will see more and more refugee advocates working alongside refugees and enabling them to tell their own stories, using their own unique voices. With the technology available to us today, refugees telling their own stories should no longer be the exception, but the rule.

You can find A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea on Amazon.

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