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So what happens to all those stateless refugees? Once they end up in Europe or the U.S. or whatever other safe haven, why is they can’t seem to just assimilate and integrate wherever they land?

Everyone would agree it’s a complicated situation. One simple solution is to just keep them out. Except that hasn’t proved simple at all. On the opposite end, why not provide education and opportunity and welcome them as citizens? Seems obvious, but perhaps no more effective than the build a wall solution. In Older Brother

 Author Mahir Guven  

offers up a deeply moving and highly personal portrait of how the currents of history impact those who are swept up in them.

The novel alternates between the voices of two brothers, sons of a refugee Syrian couple, who are born and raised in France. Safe and sound now that they are away from the battlefield, it would seem the family is safe at last. But not so.

Mom dies. Father drives a taxi and scrapes out a living, fierce in his communist beliefs. When we meet younger brother, he is, ironically, scraping out a living of his own driving for a ride-hailing (Uber?) company. Talk about father-son emotional culture clash. Older brother is a nurse, but is restless. He doesn’t feel at home in France, wishes himself home in a peaceful Syria, but of course that place doesn’t exist. After a long struggle he settles on a solution: He can keep a foot in both camps by taking off for Syria and using his medical skills to save lives. Of course, with all the fear of terrorists and terrorism, he can’t just buy a ticket and zip over to Damascus. Any arrangements he makes must be secret and anonymous. He disappears.

Younger brother suspects something, but he doesn’t know what. Because of his race and national origin, younger brother’s one venal sin–a DUI–has brought him to the attention of a particular police, lieutenant, who uses him as an informant (even though he knows almost nothing about anything important) and threatens his father’s livelihood if he goes astray.

Thus, none of the three feels neither at home in France nor able to return to anything like the homeland of their heritage.

Amid the screaming and marching that surrounds us and that seems to have engulfed our entire world, it is important to experience tales of ordinary people striving to live amid an uncertainty that not of their own making. An uncertainty in which even the most compassionate of motives can create conditions that make them prey of the unscrupulous. And that there is no such thing as what our president has cursed in such vile terms.  The  little  man  applauds  for  the  book,  not  the  orange  man.


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