I wish I’d read this book when I was a teenager, although at the same time I’m glad I haven’t encountered this book until now. I’m not sure I would have gotten as much out of the book when I was a teenager as I did reading it now. Walk in My Shoes is told through the eyes of 14-year old Gulnessa, who escapes Afghanistan with her family and arrives illegally in Australia on a boat. They are subsequently put in a detention centre for processing, which they can’t understand- why is this country locking them up when the criminals are the ones terrorising their country, not the ones who try to escape? Why do the Australians think they would risk their lives to get here unless they had no other choice?
This is a book which so desperately needed to be written, and, while it was published back in 2004, I feel it is especially relevant now. News reports and politicians refuse to put a face to asylum seekers and “boat people” and to detention centres, making it difficult to understand and think about what these people go through on their journey to be accepted into Australia. Walk in My Shoes puts faces to this collective group, and it is heart-wrenching. I was so close to crying on so many occasions while reading this book, for all of the challenges these asylum seekers endure: the painful decision to flee their country for the sake of their lives, the difficult journey out of their country, the hope keeping them afloat on the treacherous boat ride to Australia and how their hope keeps getting dashed the longer they are kept in the detention centre, locked-up in overcrowded conditions behind barbed wire.
Evans’ writing is so vivid and so detailed, that it is hard to remember that this particular family is fictional, although their experiences are based on the experiences of actual asylum seekers. The majority of Australians have no idea how much we have to be thankful for; that we live in a country where we don’t wake up every morning fearing for our lives. Walk in My Shoes is a book which everyone should read. It will, at the very least, remind you that asylum seekers are real people, simply looking for a safe place to live, something which should be, but isn’t, a basic right for everyone.
Walk in My Shoes, published by Penguin, 2004
This month, we’ll be reading ‘Boy Overboard’ by Morris Gleitzman.