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Books

It’s time to Get Loud for forcibly displaced people

In his follow-up to his much-loved picture book I Go Quiet, David Ouimet explores the struggle of millions of forcibly displaced people

I Go Quiet, my picture book about a girl struggling with interior anxieties, was published in 2019. In that book the protagonist makes small steps towards getting to a better place, and finally finds her voice.

I received many letters over the following year asking about the world she navigated with her new-found confidence. I Get Loud, a story of both friendship and displacement, is my answer to those letters.

While working on the book the world sank into the pandemic, and in so many ways we all became exiled; pulled from our routines, our families, our social engagements, our roots. As the world went into isolation, I was consumed with writing a book about extending ourselves to each other, but it was also a book about forced migration.

I Go Quiet was a book about internal struggle. I was determined, in the follow-up, to write about an external struggle, and in a single statistic from the UN’s refugee agency I found that subject: at the end of 2019 there were 79.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide. As my book developed, I chose its arc to be determined by the story’s migration, which became more metaphorical as the very dark year of 2020 unfolded.

By the time I had completed I Get Loud, the UN had released the latest refugee statistics. Despite the pandemic, in 2020 we faced the largest population of displaced people ever recorded: 82.4 million, with an estimated 35 million of those children. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the global asylum application process was severely crippled, which in turn drove an increase of illegal entry to the UK. The passage is primarily in boats; suddenly the coastal migration in I Get Loud felt conspicuously relevant.

The UK government’s recently proposed revisions to the asylum protocol are alarming. If put into place, these policies would create insurmountable difficulties for those entering the country outside of regular routes. Moreover, these systematic overhauls would undermine the rules of customary international law to protect the basic rights of refugees. At the current rate of the deepening crisis, within six or seven years the number of globally displaced people will reach 100 million.

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I hope that I Get Loud will be a springboard towards real conversation about this worldwide plight; that our positions will be weighed, our voices will surge, and that we will together reverse the trajectory of this deeply troubling situation.

I Go Quiet and I Get Loud by David Ouimet are out now (Canongate, both £12.99)

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