Format – Prose
Edition – Paperback
No of Pages – 240
Date of Publication – 12th January 2017
Author – Zana Fraillon
Genre – YA Contemporary
Opening the worlds’ eyes to the reality of the refugee crisis, The Bone Sparrow shares the story of those people lost and forgotten to the world. Mostly narrated by Subhi, a refugee born in an Australian detention centre, life behind the wire fences is all he has ever known. But his world is far bigger than anyone could dream. Stories of the Night Sea bring him hope that the world Outside is full of life. That one day he can travel beyond the cage and be free. Full of hope and life, he meets Jimmie, a girl from the Outside who lives with the memories of her lost mother. When she comes to the fences, she brings with her a notebook, a notebook full of stories that she can’t read. As they read and discover these stories together, they unravel the world and remember that if they all sing together, their song can light up the dark.
Stories, fantasy, and imagination are a big part of what makes this story so heartbreaking. Innocent people just finding that sliver of light and gripping onto it with all their strength because it is the only thing they have in the world that they can continually regenerate between themselves. Behind the fences is a life of horror and pain. Workers (Jackets) that don’t care for the innocent people around them, poor hygiene, a lack of water, food that is old and past its best, rats, disease, and everything that you’d more commonly find if you were living in a German Second World War extermination camp. The refugees and detainees only receive better food and more than their basic human rights when Outside workers come in to evaluate the state of affairs. No one knows the truth more than the people living it and with no one to listen, they are invisible.
“Sometimes, in here when people stop talking, and stop asking, and stop remembering, that’s when they start to lose that piece of themselves.”
Written in dual perspectives (Subhi and Jimmie) we get to understand what the power of stories and memories mean for them both. Subhi might take more of the spotlight but it is his stories that carry more weight, it is his retelling of the stories in Jimmie’s book that help us to see that happy memories are stored everywhere and come to life when we need them most.
“Sometimes Maá will see that looking back is just as important as looking forward, no matter how much sad it carries.”
I don’t have words to explain how much this book touched me and made me aware of the true reality of life behind the fences. Though it is not a true account, the mistreatment happening behind those closed doors is real. The conditions that the author describes were taken from reports of life in Australian detention centres and it still makes me shake with disgust and horror that innocent people are treated and persecuted in this way because they’re fleeing from a war zone.
As well as the stories, it is the friendship between Subhi and Jimmie that make this book powerful. They’re both not living the best life (Subhi in the centre, and Jimmie living with no mother, and a father who works away from home) and through their friendship they find comfort. They’ll do anything for each other and Subhi shows that when he decides to escape from the centre and save Jimmie from an infection that is slowly killing her.
That power behind the stories is saving and given them a better chance at life.
It’s obviously not realistic for everyone but it works.
Combine that with humanity, truth, and real life, and you’ve got a book that explores a relevant, eye-opening topic.
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