I am starting this review of The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown with this statement: Brown has an agenda with this book, but that is not a bad thing. It is a complicate book with a complicated theme, yet also, straight forward. I will add, I have rewritten this review too many times. I was well over 600 words at one point. This book was upsetting, enlightening and a not an all together unpleasant journey, but not one for just anyone.
The subject is simple, we follow multiple refugees on their escape from Syria after the civil war has broken out. Brown’s story unfolds both slowly and quickly. This contradiction is for me, the journey is over a longer period that slowly unfolds but at the same time, it does not drag. It is the way I experienced the style of writing and my reading surroundings affecting how I reacted.
Mixing the words of the refuges, information and story, the journeys of these people are shaped to show what Brown wants you to see: humans in inhuman conditions, the path that put people into these situations, and how they are forced to survive or die, sometimes by their own hand. Several afterwards and additional information round things out. This is an uncomfortable book; it will make you think and question.
My edition of this graphic novel was from 2018. As of then, Syria (slightly larger than Florida) had basically the population of Denmark flee. Some of the camps around the world were infested with garbage, with brought rats, which brought deadly vipers. Greece, Germany, Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon were some locations. Resources and popular opinion shape things. The fourth wall breaks (there is a narrator and the people themselves) allow you to find the human connection. This book follows the refugees of Syria allowing you to see the plight of one group of people.
By no stretch of the imagination is this an easy book, and honestly, while it is a subject we should address, this book is not for everyone. Aimed at teens, I would think at least 13 and up the best audience. This is due to content and concepts which are perfectly representing by the art of Brown. The illustrations are there to push the feelings of hopelessness and destruction. The browns and grays force a particular mood (or at least hope too). They are mostly tastefully done when it comes to the death scenes, but the haunting eyes of mothers and children are to say the least, meant to manipulate emotional responses. This is neither bad nor good, just what is presented.