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Refugee Awareness and Libraries

Caroline Zakarian, Librarian, Lifelong Learning Department,
Two little girls, Pham Doan Phuong, 6, and Pham Quynh Phuong, 4, salute the American flag
Resettlement of Vietnamese refugees, [1975]. Photo credit: Mercurio Conrad, Herald Examiner Collection

The month of June is Refugee Awareness Month and June 20 is World Refugee Day. This day was established in 2001 by the General Assembly of the United Nations to honor the courage, strength and determination of men, women and children who are forced to flee their homeland under the threat of conflict, violence or persecution.

From displaced Europeans after World War II to the Southeast Asians and Central Americans after the Vietnam War, Khmer Rouge Regime and Civil Wars in the 1970s and 1980s to the former residents from the Middle East arriving in recent years, refugees have been coming to Los Angeles for decades and are part of the fabric of our city.

The Los Angeles Public Library is one of many institutions working with refugee resettlement agencies to be welcoming and provide needed support to new families and even, a place to begin building a new network.

Upcoming events at both the Studio City Branch Library and Central Library recognize the perseverance and contributions of refugees. To commemorate World Refugee Day on June 20, we are partnering with the Refugee Forum of Los Angeles and Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Office of Immigrant Affairs to co-host a community event that will celebrate the refugee community of Los Angeles. The program features a panel discussion, a portrait exhibit, a resource fair, and free food and music.

The Studio City Branch is hosting a series of events, one featuring Colombian born and raised author Ingrid Rojas Contreras in discussion about her debut novel, Fruit of the Drunken Tree, which tells the story of Colombian refugees living in California. Other programs in the series include a storytelling workshop and craft night.

According to the State Department, since 1975 more than 3.3 million refugees have been permanently resettled in the United States, more than any other country in the world.

Here are some facts from The UN Refugee Agency:

  • There are 68.5 million people around the world have been forced from home.
  • There are nearly 25 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.
  • Nearly 1 person is forcibly displaced every two seconds as a result of conflict or persecution.

Books by Refugee Authors

A Long Way Gone : Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
Beah, Ishmael, 1980-

Inside Out & Back Again
Lai, Thanhha

The Sympathizer
Nguyen, Viet Thanh

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers
Ung, Loung.

The Man Without a Face : The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin
Gessen, Masha.

In the Shadow of the Banyan
Ratner, Vaddey.


Super Sad True Love Story
Shteyngart, Gary

Dragonfish : A Novel
Tran, Vu, 1975-

Kissinger, Henry, 1923-

Les Miserables
Hugo, Victor, 1802-1885.

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
Hugo, Victor