Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The House Of Journalists by Tim Finch

The House Of Journalists is a government sponsored organization in London set up to provide shelter for refugee journalists who had been forced out of their own countries by political actions of the government.  Many of these men and women had lost their families, had been tortured and reviled, and escaped at great personal cost to a country where they hope to find refuge.  The House is set up to provide that refuge and to give these journalists a place to freely express the stories that were prohibited in their own countries.

The stories are horrendous.  There is Mr. Stan, a journalist who was born afflicted with a crippling disease.  Almost the only part of his body unaffected were his beautiful hands and his active mind.  When he is arrested and held by the government, his torturers ruined his hands, beating them with hammers until they are nothing more than stumps.  Mustapha is grateful for the shelter, but he misses the family he has left behind so badly that he spends many days in his room, too depressed to interact with others.  Agnes, a photojournalist, has escaped at great personal cost, and of course the atrocities visited on women differ from those meted out to men, including sexual abuse. 

All are grateful to have found the House of Journalists, and its freedom.  But are they really free here?  Their days are structured by the rules and regulations of the House, and their stories are co-opted by those who would use them for their own purposes.  There is Julian, who created the House and now rules it with an iron fist.  There is Edward Crumb, a liberal novelist who sees the chance to use these stories for his next big book. 

Tim Finch has written an interesting look at the refugee issue that explores this problem from all sides.  The stories are compelling, but before a refugee is granted a permanent stay, the validity of that story must be decided on by a committee who grants extension, or deports the individual before them.  The refugees are grateful, but also realize the freedoms they are giving up to be sheltered by others.  This book is recommended for readers interested in the world and how political wars and governments shifts can impact the population of those living there, and what those of us lucky enough to avoid such titanic shifts owe to those caught up in this nightmare.

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