When Stars Are Scattered, by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed, recounts Omar Mohamed's childhood in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. Separated from his mother, Omar and his nonverbal younger brother live in the camp and hope to be selected for resettlement. With Victoria Jamieson's illustrations, this graphic novel helps middle grade readers better understand what it means to be a refugee.
Previously, I have written about the lack of own voice representation in the human rights literature circle I teach to grade seven students. I'm excited to add this book to the unit. Omar Mohamed's experiences as a refugee give the book an authentic voice, emphasizing the difficulties refugees face, including hunger, trauma, and uncertainty. He also spends time discussing the gender inequality that exists between girls and boys living in the camp, as his friend's education is cut short due to her arranged marriage.
The story is also one of hope, as the character Omar has a hesitant hope for a better future. For instance, the authors chronicle Omar's persistance in school, which he knows could be the key to his future. As well, they show the the long resettlement process, which requires patience and hope even as it is fraught with uncertainty. As a reader, we hope for Omar to be resettled, fully realizing that so many others never get this opportunity. Rarely have I seen a book that emphasizes so powerfully the uncertainty of living in a refugee camp, where people are trapped in place, but with eyes on a better horizon.