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Publisher's Summary

To the charity workers, Dadaab refugee camp is a humanitarian crisis; to the Kenyan government, it is a 'nursery for terrorists'; to the Western media, it is a dangerous no-go area; but to its half a million residents, it is their last resort.

Situated hundreds of miles from any other settlement, in the midst of the inhospitable desert of Northern Kenya where only thorn bushes grow, Dadaab is a city like no other. Its buildings are made from mud, sticks or plastic; its entire economy is grey; and its citizens survive on rations and luck.

Over the course of four years, Ben Rawlence became a firsthand witness to this strange and desperate limbo land, getting to know many of those who have come there seeking sanctuary. Among them are Guled, a former child soldier who lives for football; Nisho, who scrapes an existence by pushing a wheelbarrow and dreaming of riches; Tawane, the indomitable youth leader; and schoolgirl Kheyro, whose future hangs upon her education.

In City of Thorns, Rawlence interweaves the stories of nine individuals to show what life is like in the camp and to sketch the wider political forces that keep the refugees trapped there.

Lucid, vivid and illuminating, City of Thorns is an urgent human story with deep international repercussions, brought to life through the people who call Dadaab home.

©2016 Ben Rawlence (P)2016 Audible, Ltd

Critic Reviews

"By combining his own experience with interviews with residents of Dadaab, he makes the human rights crisis vivid and immediate for readers.... Compelling." (Publishers Weekly)
"Where once writers made myths, now increasingly it's the writer's job to unmake the myths created by modern media. City of Thorns is a clear-eyed account of people living in limbo and a testament both to human frailty and human resilience. By recounting the stories of a few Rawlence sheds light on all the stories of all in the refugees in all the camps that will never be told. As timely as Rachel Carson's Silent Spring - this book should be required reading." (Aminatta Forna, author of The Memory of Love)

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  • Overall
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  • Anthony
  • 12-23-17

Insights into tough refugee life

Insightful view of challenges facing refugees in Dadaab camp; home to over half a million people from central, eastern and Horn of Africa. Rawlence's book provides a way in to understanding day-to-day difficulties and offers the story behind a number of individuals resident in the camp.... how they got there, what they have done or have to do to survive, what and where they aspire to. Of value in understanding the human side to the complexities of forced migration and the roles of the many stakeholders operating in these environments.

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  • Ronan T Brennan
  • 03-20-17

A book which should be read by all in a post Trump world.

If you are debating whether to listen to this don't as it is a vital book.

Ben Rawlence has created a brilliant book which through recording the daily struggle of refugees in the world largest camp, should gives those of us lucky enough to live a relatively privileged life an insight into the lives of people who are regularly demonised in the press.

Clearly Ben has spent a great deal of time getting to know the people involved, and it feels as a very important piece of work.

However, it is not a depressing read as the continued resilience of people who go through so much ultimately provides a hopeful message, which should inspire us all.


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  • Isabel
  • 07-29-16

insightful and important

I enjoy the opportunity to see the world from someone else's perspective and this book does that very well. I think more people should understand about the lives of refugees and this book is a good way to do so. it's also very well read