Book Review: While the Earth Sleeps We Travel

Young refugees reclaiming their narratives and discovering the power of storytelling in a moving collection of poetry, stories and art. 

The book While the Earth Sleeps We Travel by Ahmed M. Badr, guides the reader through the stories of 27 young refugees. The author himself is a refugee from Iraq, who resettled with his family in the United States back in 2008. Having a passion for storytelling, and a firm belief in the healing power of getting to take charge of one's own story through the medium of art, Ahmed held a number of workshops in refugee camps across Greece, Trinidad, Syracuse and Tobago. The workshops allowed the young refugees participating to explore who they are and how they want to be seen by the world.

Whether this materialised in the form of a poem, story, photograph or drawing, the participants, ranging between the ages of 8 to 30, got to showcase a part of their identity. A few of these can be found in the book, interluded by poems that the author Ahmed Badr wrote. The content is skillfully woven together into a journey where the reader gets to discover what is at the core of each young refugee’s existence. The book highlights their individual experience of being a displaced person; from the struggle of the journey taken, to the alienation felt during the resettlement process. They also bring to light the joy found in being able to write their own name, and the peace found in their faith and community. All these things are similarly valued and listened to by author and reader alike. 

While the Earth Sleeps We Travel offers an opportunity to take a step back and listen to young refugees. For too long, the existence of a displaced person has been narrowed down to the tragedies that have happened to them, instead of recognising their individuality. The book is a tool to find commonality between reader and refugee - showing that at the end of the day we are all people navigating life the best we can. It celebrates refugees with all their facettes, challenging our misconceptions and offers a chance to rethink how we categorise refugees.

“Do not define us by

Our tragedy

Our pain

Our sorrow

Our people

Our flag(s)

Define us by our



The distance between our truth and yours.”

Written by Leo Matou, an SCM member studying Contemporary Dance at London Contemporary Dance School. Leo’s pronouns are they/he.