When Stars Are Scattered is one of those books that restores faith in humanity. It was a Goodreads-award nominee of 2020 for graphic novels/comics and deservedly so. It tells the story of adult Omar, now living in Arizona, of the FIFTEEN years he and his disabled brother Hassan spent in Dadaab, a refugee camp for Somali families displaced by the civil wars in their country in the nineties. Their farm burned down, their father was killed, and they never knew what happened to their mother. That is more than enough heartache right there.
This book was a recommendation from Sarah Mackenzie’s Read-Aloud-Revival website. It had been sitting on my bedside table for quite a while before I picked it up and started to read. I had been feeling sorry for myself. I was reading to escape my own reality and found myself in Omar’s reality in Somalia.
The two little boys, Omar and Hassan, lived alone in the UN-sponsored camp in a hut, taken care of by a woman who "fostered" them. Omar was fortunate enought to be chosen to go to school and they were after many, many years of the very, very few who were chosen to be emigrated to the U.S.. Omar wanted to tell this story from his perspective as a boy growing up there. He is Muslim, so we learn of separate girls and boys cultural and religious experiences. We learn of constant hunger, terrible heat, and occasional good luck. Omar does not quit going to school, doing his chores, and putting one foot in front of the other, even when he didn't have high hopes that anything in his life would ever change.I recognized a story that is moving and hopeful, sad and frustrating, and is laced with both gentle humor and unflinching honesty.
And by the time this book ended, I was left with the sadness of knowing that there are people who have been separated from their homes and their families, who had even lost them to death. Whose lives have been on hold for many years. Waiting.
Waiting is a theme in life. Waiting. But I knew all this before. It just became more personal. Personal, as knowing and seeing the ill- treatment of the men, women, and children at our own boarders.
It is probably better to think of this book not as a children’s book but as a religious experience, one of faith, love and hope. It is perfectly done for the middle school crowd (ages 9-12) on up, creating a better understanding of people who lived completely differently lives than we did, filling the reader up with empathy, and inspiring them to always keep dreaming while doing the work to catch those dreams.
It is important to consider that there are people (LOTS of people) actually living long-term in refugee camps. Whole lives. So this book was incredibly eye-opening to me and it deserves a wide audience. It's written with a lot of heart and it's just an unforgettable story.
This is the kind of book that stays with you, and I'm so glad it ended up in my hands. I found it an engaging and inspiring story of brotherhood, friendship, foster families, education, perseverance, and hope.