On Fragile Waves by E. Lily Yu


The haunting story of a family of dreamers and tale-tellers looking for home in an unwelcoming world. This exquisite and unusual magic realist debut, told in intensely lyrical prose by an award winning author, traces one girl’s migration from war to peace, loss to loss, home to home.

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“Lyrical prose, fairytales, and an accurate, heartbreaking refugee story of what it means to be both hopeful and unwelcome.

Fleeing a war-torn Afghanistan, Firuzeh’s and her brother’s parents tell them fairytales to cope with being uprooted from their home. They tell them of magic and promise and how good their lives will be. The reality of the treacherous boat crossing to Australia, of living in a refugee camp, and of finding work in a country where you do not speak the language, and of trying to make a home where you are not wanted, is quite something different.

This book, like the family’s story, punctures their grim reality with enough hope-filled fairytales to carry them—and us—onward.”


Firuzeh and her brother Nour are children of fire, born in an Afghanistan fractured by war. When their parents, their Atay and Abay, decide to leave, they spin fairy tales of their destination, the mythical land and opportunities of Australia.

As the family journeys from Pakistan to Indonesia to Nauru, heading toward a hope of home, they must rely on fragile and temporary shelters, strangers both mercenary and kind, and friends who vanish as quickly as they’re found.

When they arrive in Australia, what seemed like a stable shore gives way to treacherous currents. Neighbors, classmates, and the government seek their own ends, indifferent to the family’s fate. For Firuzeh, her fantasy worlds provide some relief, but as her family and home splinter, she must surface from these imaginings and find a new way.

On Fragile Waves by E. Lily Yu
Epilogue BCB