Refugee Stories from Iraq and Afghanistan

These books focus on refugees in Iraq and Afghanistan. They primarily take place during during the 2000s, although some stories have their roots in earlier conflicts from the nations' histories.

Due to the violent nature of the conflicts described, we encourage you to review titles carefully before recommending them or using them in the classroom.

See our Refugee Experiences section for:

  • Titles from other regions
  • Titles for younger readers
  • Guidance for supporting refugee students

Children of War: Voices of Iraqi Refugees

Age Level: 12-14

Product Description: In Children of War, a companion title to Off to War: Voices of Soldiers' Children, Deborah Ellis turns her attention to tragic victims of the Iraq war — Iraqi children. She interviews two dozen young people, mostly refugees living in Jordan, but also a few who are trying to build new lives in North America. Their frank and harrowing stories reveal inspiring resilience as the children try to survive the consequences of a war in which they play no part.

Out of Iraq: Refugees' Stories in Words, Paintings and Music

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: Since 2006, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees have fled to other countries. This book provides, in words and pictures, a glimpse of what life was like in Iraq before they left, why they were forced to flee, and how they feel about life as a refugee. Their stories are set against background information about Iraq, Saddam Hussain's rule, the invasion, and the subsequent civil war. The role of the United Nations High Commissions for Refugees (UNHCR) is outlined, and ideas for using the book in the classroom are also included.

Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference

Age Level: 16-18

"St. John, a New York Times reporter, brought Clarkston, GA, to national attention in 2007 with a series of articles about the changes in the small Southern town brought about by an influx of refugees from all over the world. This book comes out of those articles…The book is a sports story, a sociological study, a tale of global and local politics, and the story of a determined woman who became involved in the lives of her young charges." — School Library Journal (Young readers edition also available.)

Parvana's Journey

Age Level: 9-12

"In this sequel to The Breadwinner (2001), 13-year-old Parvana buries her father, disguises herself as a boy, and sets out across war-torn Afghanistan to find the surviving members of her family. Along the way, she rescues a baby and meets two other children: contentious Asif, who has lost a leg, and hopeful Leila, who believes she has magical powers that protect her against the land mines on their journey. Together the four children battle starvation, bombings, and despair before reaching a camp that offers them some glimmer of hope for the future." — Booklist

Shooting Kabul

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: As Fadi's family is preparing to flee to the U.S., Fadi's little sister is lost. The family leaves her behind, but adjusting to life in the United States isn't easy and as the events of September 11th unfold, the prospects of locating Mariam in a war-torn Afghanistan seem slim. When a photography competition with a grand prize trip to India is announced, Fadi sees his chance to return to Afghanistan and find his sister. Based in part on the Ms. Senzai's husband's own experience fleeing his home in Soviet controlled Afghanistan in the 1970s.

The Breadwinner

Age Level: 9-12

"Since the Taliban took over Afghanistan, 11-year-old Parvana has rarely been outdoors. Barred from attending school, shopping at the market, or even playing in the streets of Kabul, the heroine of Deborah Ellis's engrossing children's novel The Breadwinner is trapped inside her family's one-room home. That is, until the Taliban hauls away her father and Parvana realizes that it's up to her to become the 'breadwinner' and disguise herself as a boy to support her mother, two sisters, and baby brother." — Amazon.com Review

Under the Persimmon Tree

Age Level: 12-14

"When her father and brother are taken by the Taliban and her mother and baby brother are killed in a bombing raid during the Afghan war in October 2001, Najmah begins an arduous journey across the border to Peshawar, Pakistan. There, she meets up with an American woman, Nusrat, who has been conducting a school for refugee children while she waits for her husband, Faiz, who has returned to his native country to open medical clinics.

Words In The Dust

Age Level: 9-12

"Born with a cleft lip, Zulaikha struggles to feel worth in a society that values women by their marriage prospects…Then, by chance, Zulaikha meets Meena, a former professor, who begins to teach her to read and write just as American soldiers arrive, bringing the chance for both more education and surgery to correct Zulaikha's birth defect.