New book on challenges facing refugees, immigrants
Melissa Fleming, Chief Spokesperson of the UN Refugee agency and one of the world’s foremost experts on refugees, has published a new book that speaks to the heart of the debate over the suspension of refugee resettlement in the United States and the suspension of visas for immigrants from seven Middle East nations.
Melissa Fleming’s new book, “A Hope More Powerful Than The Sea,” chronicles the story of Doaa Al Zamel, a young Syrian refugee who was forced from her home in Daraa, Syria at 16 and at only 19 lost her fiance and love of her life when the boat they were taking from Egypt to Europe was viciously attacked, killing more than 500 refugees who only sought an opportunity to make a life for themselves free of the fear that at any moment their life could be taken from them.
Now, more than ever, is a time to remember that these are real people, with stories, backgrounds, histories, loves, losses, hopes and dreams.
Fleming’s book has received high praise:
“Fleming deftly illustrates the pain of those who choose to leave Syria… [She] recounts their narrative with compassion and without melodrama, and her book is ultimately a story of hope… The message is to try to humanize one young woman, to tell her tale so that the migrant crisis does not become a bunch of nameless, faceless people fleeing a war but human beings with families, with needs, and with desires.”
“Doaa’s incredible fight to live, one of only a few refugees to survive four days in a sea of corpses, is recounted by Melissa Fleming in her moving new book, A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea.”
—New York Daily News
“Fleming’s account is as gripping as it is moving; yet as Doaa herself points out in an afterword, ‘it is only a small glimpse of the hardship and pain that refugees around the world endure.’”
Doaa Al Zamel did not want to leave her hometown of Daraa, Syria. She had dreams of one day moving out of her crowded family home to Damascus, attending university, and finding her own way in the world. Those dreams were shattered when, at only 16, she was swept up in the uprising that sparked Syria’s civil war.
In A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea: One Refugee’s Incredible Story of Love, Loss, and Survival (Flatiron Books; on sale January 24, 2017; $25.99), Melissa Fleming of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees helps readers grasp the Syria crisis through the eyes of one Syrian girl, Doaa Al Zamel, who as a teenager risked losing everything she’s ever known – including her life – to seek safety and a life far from home.
Hope More Powerful follows Doaa through the violent streets of Syria, to the initially welcoming yet ultimately hostile refuge of Egypt and then to the unforgiving waters of the Mediterranean Sea where her nightmare would truly begin. After failed attempts and multiple arrests trying to leave Egypt, Doaa and her new fiancé, Bassem, found themselves crammed on a ramshackle smugglers’ boat. After four frightening days on the sea and less than a day’s distance from the Italian coast, their boat was violently rammed by another. Doaa watched helplessly, afloat on a child’s inflatable ring, as most of her 500 fellow passengers drowned as the boat sank.
In the four harrowing days that followed, the few remaining survivors around her died one by one of hunger, thirst, or despair. When Doaa’s fiancé, Bassem, lost his strength and slipped from her grip to his death, she wished to let the water swallow her too, if it weren’t for the two infant children in her arms, entrusted to her by their dying parents. She clung to life for their sake, praying she could keep them alive until a rescue team found them. Finally, after four days of hell, they were spotted by a passing cargo ship.
Melissa Fleming is Senior Advisor to the United Nations Secretary General and Chief Spokesperson for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). She travels to war zones and refugee camps to give voice to the millions of people forcibly displaced from their homes. She is also a frequent contributor to The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, and NPR. This is her first book.