SHORT & SWEET REVIEW: MORE TO THE STORY BY ROSEMARY SAYER

Note, the format of my Short and Sweet reviews differs in that they simply comprise the book blurb and a short response (hence, the short and sweet).

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Julian Burnside, AO, QC writes in More to the Story’s foreword: ‘The great importance of this book is that it gives a real human face to the people we are treating as criminals. It’s uncomfortable, but inescapable, message is: The people we are mistreating are human beings just like us.’ I couldn’t word it better. Here’s the blurb:

More to the Story looks beyond negative media reports, political speeches and fear-mongering statistics to tell human stories of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia.

Rosemary Sayer writes with empathy and humility of her interviews with refugees from Burma, Afghanistan and South Sudan. Together, they tell stories of persecution, violence and starvation; families separated for a time, or forever; the desperation of thousands in refugee camps, awaiting relocation under humanitarian programs; the perilous journeys by boat of those for whom waiting would have meant death; life in mandatory detention; and the challenges of starting over in Australia. None of these people chose to be refugees; all of them chose survival.

A powerful, moving and inspiring account of human resilience that every Australian should read.

Everyone has a story. But for too many refugees in Australia, their story is told through political debate, media reports, and ill-informed opinion. Rosemary Sayer was uneasy with this, believing there was more story to the story; it was this unease that gave birth to her inspiring, interesting and thought-provoking book.

The book shares personal stories of former refugees and asylum seekers from Burma, Afghanistan and South Sudan who were interviewed by Sayer. Their words weave in with her thoughts, observations and contextual narrative, creating a deeply personal book on many levels.

A tear rolled down John’s cheek. ‘We did not go back to our home. I did not say goodbye to my mum. We left straightaway.’

I found myself crying, too. I could not begin to understand this man’s pain. There was no need for the apology he offered. (p69)

I’m with Rosemary Sayer. I believe these stories need to be told so that conversations are better informed, so that more compassion is offered, and better political and Government decisions are made. I admire Sayer for her tenacity and commitment to sharing these stories, and those who opened their hearts and words to her. I admire her insight and sensitivity. And, while I understand such a book can’t change everyone’s stance, my hope, like Sayer’s, like Burnside’s, is that more and more Australians see the human side of the statistics, debate and media reports.

Available from good bookstores. My copy was courtesy of Margaret River Press.