NPR Books We Love 2021, Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2021, Booklist Best of 2021 Booklist Editors' Choice: Adult Titles, NYT Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of 2021, Washington Independent Review of Books 51 Favorite Books of 2021.
A 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.
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.
Content notice: On Fragile Waves contains references to violence, abuse, and racism.
Yu's outstanding debut opens with an enticing work of visual poetry that sets the stage for a story built of stories about the hopes of a family searching for a place where they can feel safe. Firuzeh and her family flee Afghanistan in the middle of the night, trusting hearsay that the people smugglers escorting them are honest. As they travel by land, air, and boat, the family endures cramped quarters, a waning food and water supply, and a storm that takes refugees' lives, but Firuzeh fills even the tensest moments of their journey with fantastical stories of what their lives will be once they've reached Australia. Unfortunately, once they do reach their destination, the dream of freedom, safety, and comfort remains elusive in the face of poor living conditions and xenophobia. In flowing, lyrical prose, Yu showcases the power of folklore and the pain of displacement. This is a knockout.