To refer to The Other Side of Hope simply as ‘a literary magazine’ feels like an injustice. It is a beautiful, complex and painful collection of short stories, non-fiction and poems written and edited by refugees and immigrants. Having recently finished reading my copy, I find myself contemplating the journeys portrayed between the covers of the magazine days later. My mind wanders back to the melancholic ending of the fictional story ‘the Proposal’ by Qin Sun Stubis, or the heart-wrenching experiences of perpetual displacement, racism and otherness experienced by the protagonist of the poem ‘Engelestân’ by Kimia Etemadi. The Other Side of Hope is more than a magazine – it constitutes a tool for building empathy, for generating understanding, and an avenue through which to become immersed in the lives of refugees and immigrants for a brief, yet emotive period of time.
The authors of the contributions to the first volume of this magazine are diverse in both background, trajectory and journeys undertaken, yet their stories and poems are all transformative. They convey their journeys so clearly, so invitingly, taking the reader by the hand through an open window to the writers’ experiences. You have no choice but to remove your blinkers and disassemble your barriers, blinking in the glaring light of inhumanity, yet reassured that there is enough humanity within us and between us to sustain each other, if we were willing to reach across arbitrary divides.
Writing styles vary, but the language used is unfailingly rich, with evocative words such as ‘petrichor’ interspersed among themes such as sacrifice, reminiscence over the permanently lost, loneliness, unfamiliarity, and the realisation that being surrounded by ‘things’ often corresponds with disillusion and a loss of intimacy. The story ‘Milk and Eggs’ by Radhika Maira Tabrez, which presents a sensitive portrayal of depression, particularly resonated with me, as did ‘A Reason to Stay’ by Madalena Daleziou, which reflects upon the relationship between immigrant and country of origin: memories interwoven through time, sometimes taken for granted, but culminating in the sad acceptance by both protagonist and motherland that she was always destined to leave.
The stories and poems contained in this collection are at once confronting, poignant and musical. They challenge the reader to put themselves in the shoes of those who experience the perpetual alienation and unfamiliarity of life in exile; those who are objectified and spoken about rather than spoken with. This literature invites us to deconstruct the categories of ‘alien’, ‘immigrant’, ‘refugee’ and ‘other’, in order to simply recognise the humanity, the beauty, and the struggle in all of us, regardless of country of origin or means of arrival.
Two sections from two different poems stand out as representative of this collection, of the hope and the sadness that it inspires:
From ‘Refuge’ by Amer Raawan:
‘So write it on a paper,
And send it with the wind…
Take your forgotten dreams,
But with a chance of drowning.’
From ‘Lost and found / mothertongue’ by the Middle Eastern Women’s Friendship Group:
‘We can find new words,
To move between two places,
Tell old stories, meet new faces,
And join our past with our children’s
The Other Side of Hope is an anthology of very human beauty that amplifies the words of refugees and immigrants around the world. It is a timely and necessary publication.
All images credit: The Other Side of Hope
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