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After the Last Border: Two Families and the Story of Refuge in America

4.62  ·  Rating details ·  171 ratings  ·  51 reviews
"Simply brilliant, both in its granular storytelling and its enormous compassion" --The New York Times Book Review

The story of two refugee families and their hope and resilience as they fight to survive and belong in America

The welcoming and acceptance of immigrants and refugees has been central to America's identity for centuries--yet America has periodically turned its
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published August 4th 2020 by Viking (first published April 28th 2020)
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Erin Wallace
Sep 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobooks, solo
This is OUTSTANDING. It's going to vie for best nonfiction read of the year for me, I can tell. In the style of books like The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson (which tells the story of the Great Migration through interviews with families who made that journey interspersed with chapters on the history and politics surrounding their journeys), this book tells the stories of two families who came to Austin, Texas as part of the refugee resettlement program. One is a Christian family from M ...more
Kylie Martinez
Aug 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
To be honest, I thought this book was a contemporary fiction book, so I was surprised that it read so factually in the beginning. But, then, as I learned more about the history of immigration laws and the story of two refugee women, I grew to appreciate The Last Border.

I felt that Goudeau did a really great job at structuring her book to make you interested, while still providing you with enough background to help you frame the stories of the refugees.

With the election coming up, I would urge
Sarah Wiehe
Oct 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic nonfiction book. It reads like a fiction book and breaks your heart as you are fighting for Hasna and MuNaw. The chapters on American history on refugees were equally fascinating and disappointing. I would recommend this book to everyone!
Donna Hester
Sep 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a fascinating way to tell two such personal stories intertwined with historical data. I challenge anyone to read it and not feel more connected to the plight of refugees. It packs a wallop but at the same time the stories are so delicately told that the seismic shift sneaks up on you. I will be thinking about this book for a long time. It’s one of those books that will forever change the way people act.
Scott Ferguson
Sep 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Wow!!! There is a reason this book was on the front page of the New York Times. It is amazing in so many ways. First, of course, are the amazing stories of two refugee families from Syria and from Myanmar. Their stories are heartfelt and I felt so connected to them, even though I have never been a refugee or been to their countries. The writing took me to those places and situations and made it real. Second, throughout the book I learned about the history of refugee policies and practices in the ...more
Terra Brimberry
Aug 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a timely book! Jessica Goudeau does a great job of telling difficult personal stories combined with a deep-dive into the immigration history of our country. This is well worth reading and you will learn so much about the beautiful people that are forced out of their own homes and countries and come to the US to start again - and we sure don't make it an easy journey for them. I promise it will make you take a whole new look at what you think might be the "immigration problem" in our country ...more
Caroline Hedges
Oct 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
As someone living in America on a nonresident visa, I have a empathy for anyone trying to make a life in a foreign country. What the two women lived through in their home countries is harrowing, desperate and heartbreaking. To live in fear every day, to know your home could be destroyed, your children taken from you and brutalized, I applaud these women for making tough choices in appalling circumstances.

I thought the author did a great job of bringing these women's hardships to life both in the
May 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I won a copy of After the Last Border in a Goodreads giveaway, so thank you to Viking for providing print copies. The stories of Mu Naw and Hasna were both harrowing and inspiring, and I admire Jessica Goudreau for doing her utmost to get them right. I have always felt empathy toward refugees, but news stories more often than not turn people into numbers. I didn't need any persuading to believe that the United States should welcome refugees, and my hope is that those who doubt the humanity of th ...more
Danielle Patterson Raphale
Aug 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book traces the real-life narratives of two different refugee women, one from Myanmar and one from Syria, through the tragic upheaval of their and their families' lives due to religious, ethnic and political persecution by their home countries' governments. Interspersed between their stories Goudeau has written a beautifully well-explained summarization of the history of US attitudes and policies around refugee resettlement in the US. To me, it has often felt difficult to understand the sit ...more
Katherine Pershey
Oct 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An extraordinary book. Made me cry, made me rage. Made me consider the incredibly difficult and awe-inspiring lives of refugees.

In addition to the well-researched and ethically rendered stories of Mu Naw (from Myanmar) and Hasna (from Syria), Goudeau also includes interludes outlining the history of refugee resettlement in the US.

The number of refugees permitted to enter the US through the intense vetting of the Refugee Admissions Process each year is established by an annual Presidential Dete
Oct 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is fantastic and something everyone should read. Goudeau takes you to Myanmar and Thailand with Mu Naw. You can imagine yourself in Syria and Jordan with Hasna. The picture of them in their small apartments in Austin is clear. She also paints an amazing picture of the trials these families faced not only before they came to the United States but also after arrival. You probably have an idea in your head of what you imagine a refugee to be and you're probably wrong. This book is a great ...more
Sep 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
I loved this book. The format was interesting. It went back and forth telling the stories of two separate refugee women, each of these stories took place at different times in recent history. Each woman has a different country or origin. Interspersed with these stories Jessica gives a retelling if the history of refugee resettlement policy in the US. I learned a lot I didn’t know. I loved getting a glimpse outside of my own small worldview, and into the lives of these two women and their familie ...more
Sep 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is by far one of the best books I have read this year. The stories completely enveloped me. I now feel like I personally know Mu Naw and Hasna. I feel as if I carry their stories deep in my heart. I loved how the background on US refugee policy woven throughout the book, allowing the stories to give a face for the policies.
Sara Hillegass
Aug 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book just reinforces the importance of voting. It's a travesty what has happened to the refugee program in the US. The author does an artful job at documenting the journey of two families to gain asylum in the US as refugees. She gives historical context for how the refugee program has evolved over the past century, backed by statistical references. Highly recommend!
Nelda Brangwin
Aug 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Following two female refugees in Austin Texas Goudeau brings the refugee problem a human touch. Alternating between the stories of Mu Naw, a Christian refugee from Myanmar and Hasna al-Salam, a Muslim who fled Syria Goudeau tells of refugees with whom she has been working for more than a decade. The Myranmar Christian and the Syrian Muslim their reception is opposite. Hostility toward Muslims only increased under Trump. The author has been friends with both women for many years. I enjoyed the af ...more
Jun 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Jessica Goudeau's account compares and contrasts the experiences of two women who were granted refugee status in the United States at different times in our history. Mu Naw, part of the persecuted Christian minority in Myanmar, escaped the country in 1989 at the age of five. She grew up in Thai refugee camps until 2007, when she along with her husband and two daughters, came to the United States and settled in Austin, Texas. In the States, the family had to deal with the language barrier, lonel ...more
Oct 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Where do I even begin..Or more so, how do I even begin to describe such a profound work of writing and storytelling.

I will admit the plight of refugees is one that is very close to my heart. Being a daughter of refugees, I always get super emotional when I think of what my parents endured having to flee war. Jessica Goudeau is a great writer. Like every review has mentioned I had to remind myself that this is not a work fiction. This is very real stories about very real people and the tragedies
Oct 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a phenomenal read. It is as captivating as it is heart-breaking as Jessica Goudeau shares the story of two refugee families, told between the lines of American history with refugees, politics and resettlement. Her writing captures the hardships, love, and complexities of Mu Naw and Hasna and their families, but is ultimately a reflection of the lives and journey that many refugees take as they flee to seek safety and security, and leave everything behind. Reading this, I almost feel like I ...more
Sue Stranc
Oct 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: annyone
Recommended to Sue by: Booklist and Book Page
I probably never would have read this title without an recommendation from Booklist or Book Page. It is not a subject I normally read about [immigration]. The first person recounting of the two women's experiences with war and being a refugee were riveting. The explanations of U.S. immigration history and policy helped greatly. Interestingly enough was seeing a news blip that the government was cutting back the number of refugees being accepted to below 50,000 a few days after I finished the boo ...more
Oct 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I picked up this book with no memory of what prompted me to put it on hold at the library — by the time I finished, it was squarely in the list of my Top Ten books I’ve read this year.

After the Last Border is the captivating and heart-wrenching story of two women who flee their homelands and eventually seek asylum in the United States. Hasna of Syria and Mu Naw of Myanmar are refugees who are both resettled in Austin, Tex., where they meet author Jessica Goudeau. Her compassion in describing th
Cory Jones
Sep 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Without being hyperbolic, this book is sheer brilliance. It effortlessly lays out both the human and policy sides of refugee resettlement in America, why it’s so crucial, and how far we have strayed from our role as a global leader in compassion and aid to people whose lives have been completely destroyed.

I had to remind myself to breathe because the storytelling is so engrossing. I was worried that a book about two different women with history/policy mixed in would feel too scrambled and hard t
Sep 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
If this book wasn't overdue at the library already (sorry, BPL!), I likely would've read something else in between THE WARMTH OF OTHER SUNS and this one - they were both heavy, timely, dark shadows on US policy, one internal, one external. The weight of those two books together made it hard to read at times, particularly the US Refugee Resettlement chapters, but I like that Goudeau kept Hasna & Mu Naw's chapters truly about their stories and put US policy/history separate, even if I just wanted ...more
Oct 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I was mesmerized by this book and it's story of two women and their families who were forced from their homes and lives in Myanmar (growing up in refugee camps in Thailand -Karen ethnic group ) and Syria at the beginning of the war in 2011. Particularly the Syrian women in Daraa as her world changes incrementally with an incident that brings violence crashing down. You can feel viscerally the fear and the government targets young men and families as they are disappeared or shot. The older people ...more
Apr 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
I received a copy of this book through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

This is a heartbreaking and compelling book!

Following two women, one from Myanmar and one from Syria, over their immigration experiences and lives as refugees trying to provide for their families and journey to America. We hear about the hardships they experienced getting to America and how living here was not the experience that either of them expected.

This book shows the struggles of these families and what it took them t
May 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book was absolutely delightful. I am not the person that reads non-fiction a lot, and I pick up 1 or 2 each year. But this book had me wanting to turn each page constantly. The story follows two women leading very different lives; one as new Mynamarian refugee to American and the other as a Syrian refugee in Jordan whom is offered US Refuge. The book follows the women and their families; which I later found out is a 100% true story just using pseudonyms!! I was amazed and captured completel ...more
Aug 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful narrative plus history of our refugee system

I’m having a hard time putting into words how much I loved this book. I read it in a weekend, but I didn’t want the beautiful stories of these amazing women to end. The author offers up two stories of women who embody what this country is about and how much we have lost with the current administration. “ Give me you tired, your poor....” Indeed. Yet, it’s not all “ good immigrants” and happy endings. The trauma these women bring with them plu
Sep 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This incredible book tells the stories of Mu Naw, a refugee from Myanmar, and Hasna, a refugee from Syria. Although this book is non-fiction it reads like a novel. The character development is amazing. Mu Naw and Hasna have amazing, inspirational stories and I could not put the book down. At the end of the book I was eager to hear how they are both doing.

The author also includes several chapters on the history of refugee law in the US and an explanation of the current situation. I appreciated t
Beth Shaff
Sep 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a thoughtful, detailed book about the lives of 2 refugees coming to America. Jessica has the amazing ability to write about these 2 women and their lives as if she were there, making me feel as if I were there. I thought I knew a fair amount about being a refugee and moving to a new country, boy was I wrong! This book not only tells these women's stories, but also talks about the whole refugee process and history. It was a page-turner and I couldn't wait to read more! No matter what side yo ...more
Sep 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The true stories of two refugee families, one from Myanmar and one from Syria, and a history of the American refugee program, I was afraid this book would be difficult to dive into. I was wrong. This book is amazing, and reads just like a story. I found myself terrified with Hasna and Mu Naw in flight, happy at their triumphs, and sometimes completely heartbroken. I have a better understanding of how the process of getting vetted for resettlement in the US works and how it has changed over the l ...more
Julie P
Oct 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Mu Naw and Hasna's stories are expertly interwoven with the United State's history of refugee resettlement. My hope is that a great many Americans will have a chance to read After the Last Border to learn more about how far we've drifted from our identity as a nation that welcomes the sojourner and to listen to the stories of these two families. My prayer is that we will one day open our doors and our arms to people who have been forced to leave their own country due to war and persecution.
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