cover image Banthology: Stories from Banned Nations

Banthology: Stories from Banned Nations

Edited by Sarah Cleave. Deep Vellum (Consortium, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-941920-73-2

This slim collection gathers tales from each of the seven countries named in President Trump’s first travel ban: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, and Libya. The assembled writers were specifically asked to “develop a fictional response” to Trump’s ban on travelers from those countries. This directive explains why almost all of the stories in the book are first-person reminiscences of expats or travelers longing to return to their homeland. The best is Syrian Zaher Omareen’s nerve-racking story, “The Beginner’s Guide to Smuggling,” about a refugee trying to make his way from Greece, through France, and eventually into Sweden. The narrator of Najwa Binshatwan’s story “Return Ticket” struggles to explain the appeal of her confounding home village, Schrödinger, to her grandson. Anoud’s riveting “Storyteller” focuses on an Iraqi woman who has emigrated to London. The narrator’s fragile mental state is a result of having lived through air raids, economic sanctions, and the deaths of her friends. Ubah Cristina Ali Farah’s “Jujube,” from Somalia, is a moving account of a young girl’s attachment to her mother, who is a medicine woman. Her narrative is interspersed with an interpreter’s notes tracking the bureaucratic investigation of the girl’s legal status for asylum. This is a necessary and inspiring collection in trying times. [em](Apr.) [/em]