Saying good-bye: Jessica Goudeau’s book breaks down the refugee experience

What’s it like buying a one-way plane ticket to a never traveled to foreign country? Some family members can board the plane, but not everyone is allowed to go. And there’s no home to go back to: war ripped it apart.

Jessica Goudeau’s third-person narrative of two refugee families entering the U.S. alongside chapters on America’s refugee resettlement program is a read-all-in-one-sitting kind of book. 

“After the Last Border” takes the reader on a historical quest, which happens to be real-life experiences of people trying to keep their families alive. While working with refugees in Austin, Texas, Goudeau built several relationships. However, she met the first character in a park.

The book starts with Mu Naw’s exit from Thailand and arrival into the U.S. Page after page uncovers what it’s like as a refugee. Chapters in between line up with historical decades of refugee resettlement changes, telling a fuller narrative of how current day families are impacted by previous government decisions. A few chapters in, the writer introduces Hasna. The backdrop is a peaceful Syria until civil war unleashes a few streets away. 

Just recently published in 2020, Goudeau’s words feel like a secret now being confessed. This book is a deeper dive into what the news doesn’t show. Like an onion being peeled off layer by layer. It’s emotional and pulls at the heart. It’s real. It’s personal. It’s the (almost) tell-all of the refugee experience. 

Who should read it? Um, everyone.

It draws Americans out of their westernized comfort and into the life of another person that looks different than them, sounds different than them but is part of the same human race. And needs a safe refuge. Spoiler: America doesn’t always provide that.

The writer is conscious about not sharing too much of the teller’s story in scenes where intense experiences are described. And there’s no foul language. A five-star rating is given for thorough examination of America’s resettlement story, development of key characters and experienced reporting. Words strung together in “After the Last Border” make it an effortless read while trying to comprehend two family’s journeys out of a war torn country.

Kelly Krabill is managing editor. Contact her at [email protected].