I've covered the project and the main issues in a recent Guardian article headlined 'I want to give asylum seekers in Britain a chance to tell their own story'. As well as writing in the Guardian, I've also discussed the issues in my introduction to Big Writing for A Small World (Scribd copy of English PEN publication) and the articles Rape, refusal, denial, detention: refugees dancing at the edge of the world and Asylum: no woman should be missed out. Press-wise Mehvish Arshad at Asia House has published an in-depth interview with me here (Jan 2015) and a March 2014 interview by Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore can be found here. I also discuss the book briefly at the end of my interview on BBC Radio 4's Loose Ends (last item). Some recent press shots are here.
I will be previewing Asylum and Exile at two panel events:
- The first, on 27th January 2015, is at Asia House, where I'll speak alongside Maurice Wren, CEO of the Refugee Council, in an event chaired by historian, academic and critic Rachel Holmes. Please click here for details.
- The second event is on 3rd February at the Free Word Centre, in collaboration with English PEN who facilitated the outreach work. Please click here for details and look here too. The event will be chaired by Maurice Wren and will feature poet Malika Booker and 2013 Granta Best Young Novelist Nadifa Mohamed.
"I see books like Asylum and Exile as evidence of a deep seated refusal to tolerate the divisive politics that extend right across the political divide. Well done for speaking up and bearing witness. We must never stop telling the stories of those we consign to the margins."
The result of Bidisha’s outreach work with refugees and asylum seekers since 2012, Asylum and Exile goes behind the stereotypes and scare stories to reveal the humanity, tragedy and bravery – and frequently the humour – of the individuals who’ve left everything behind to seek sanctuary from violence.
The outreach sessions were co-ordinated by the literary and human rights charity English PEN with the Migrants Resource Centre in Victoria and Praxis in Bethnal Green. Asylum and Exile began in the unheated rooms of severely underfunded charities in London. Yet its narratives and characters cross the globe, reflecting the consequences of some of the world’s most violent conflicts and fragile states. Stereotypes and generalisations disintegrate and what emerge are the stoical spirits, vital personalities, inner strength and defiant intelligence of the individuals themselves. The book is not an academic tract or a fierce polemic but a humane account based on personal stories expressed in idiosyncratic voices, not clichés from a newspaper. Asylum and Exile is a tribute to the honesty of raw experience, the power of personal testimony and the ability of the spoken word of truth to transform both the teller and the listener.