Monday, 7 March 2022

The Crossing by Manjeet Mann


Catriona Troth

What We Thought of It:

Manjeet Mann’s heartbreakingly beautiful verse novella is a book you will never forget.

Written in a form more familiar in music – where two voices sing (or in this case speak) in counterpoint but not in dialogue – it tells the story of two teenagers, Sammy and Nat.

Nat is a teenager from the south coast of England. She has just lost her mother, and with it so much else. Even her passion for swimming in the sea has turned into a dread of the water.

Half a world away, Sammy is in Eritrea, facing a conscription that is in essence a form of bonded labour with no fixed end point. His only choice is to face a difficult journey out of the country to try and reach the safety he believes he can find in Europe.

We die if we stay, we die if we get caught, we might die in the Sahara, we might die in the sea. But one thing is certain: if we escape – we live.

Written in free verse, the last few words of each section become the first few words of the next, weaving the two voices together as the narrative passes back and forth between them. As Sammy’s journey brings him, step by step, towards the French coast, Nat begins to train to do a cross-channel swim to raise money for refugees. But not everyone in her family supports what she is doing.

I guess migration is only a human right if you’re the right type of human.

In this short and simple text Mann succeeds in illuminating an astonishing range of issues. From Sammy’s story we learn of the often-misunderstood motives that drive young people to flee their homes, the horrors of the journey they undertake, the cruelty of the smugglers who exploit their desperation, and the cold indifference of the bureaucracy that meets them at the edge of freedom. From Nat’s story, we learn of the grinding nature of austerity that leaves some as easy prey to extremists, the trap of white saviourism, and what it takes to be a true ally.

You’ll Enjoy This If You Loved:
Boy, Everywhere by A. M. Dassu; What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkad; Black Flamingo by Dean Atta,

Avoid If You Dislike: Free verse

Perfect Accompaniment: A walk by the edge of the sea

Genre: Young Adult, Poetry

Buy This Book Here

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