The Macksey Journal


The 2011 Syrian Civil War shattered the lives of too many people, but the media snatched the story and quickly turned it into one of unending violence and malice rather than one of complex individual actions. As the conflict continued, media began engaging only with images of the war’s destruction—not of the Syrian people’s strengths but only their weaknesses. Perhaps the most popular image was of three-year-old Alan Kurdi who lay on the sand in Turkey, his face to the side, dead. Media outlets all over the world published this image, and his human face launched the conflict into one that the world suddenly cared about. But his face, full of sympathy, turns Syrians into victims. Novels, unlike the photos of Kurdi, enable agentic and individual narrators to tell their own stories. Stories about refugees leaving Syria provide space for Syrian collective healing, as well as the creation of an audience of listeners and readers who can empathize with the stories contained within novels. Using three fictional accounts of refugees leaving Syria after the Civil War, I examine the literary styles which convey the way that the narrators’ recontextualize their relationships to family, home, land, violence, as well as how the power of gaining a voice through the novelization of true accounts can create greater understanding and empathy from readers. This empathy, harnessed by reading novels such as these, can amplify the voices of those whose stories are shared and turn the emotional capital into political action.