It’s rare that I read a book and realize that I would want to talk to the author in person. From what I discovered in his essays, it seems that Tom Sleigh has the quality I admire in people most: he is able to see the complexity of existence to the most minute detail. Reporting on the subject of refugees is abundant in the current situation, but it was very refreshing to get Sleigh’s take on the way the West and the East communicate culturally in the aftermath of the colonizations of the past and throughout neocolonization of the the military invasions. His thesis is not to show suffering and make a convincing argument for accepting migrants, which in my opinion makes half of the narratives written by decent people for decent reasons unpalatable.
What Sleigh is after, however, is showing the way the written word (and other cultural aspects) travels across the globe as the migrations happen. He likes to find out things that can intimidate conscience: for instance, how a Western humanitarian sizes up against a young student who lived through bombs, or how physical exile does not always lead to spiritual safety. And while these essays definitely do not feed into the sentimental takes on the refugee experience that are so popular and so palatable in the neocon world, they speak a much larger truth.
The Land Between Two Rivers: Writing in an age of refugees by Tom Sleigh
Published by Graywolf Press in 2018