Michelle Aung Thin, Through My Eyes: Hasina, Allen and Unwin, September 2019, 224 pp., RRP $16.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781760637286
The men come at night. The first Hasina knows of it is her aunt’s voice, urgent, full of fear. ‘Up, up. Get up!’ The second thing is smoke. Then there is a scream. ‘Run,’ her father shouts. ‘And don’t stop!’
This is the seventh book in the Through My Eyes conflict zone series in which stories of war are told through the eyes of children.
Fourteen year old Hasina her family are Rohingyas- a persecuted racial minority in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). As political tensions rise and the finger of blame is pointed clearly at Rohingyas, daily life for Hasina and her family becomes more and more difficult. There is no more school. Going to the market becomes increasingly dangerous. Previously friendly neighbours suddenly turn against them. Things escalate until finally men with demonic eyes come in the night, wreaking havoc on the village. Hasina flees into the forest with her crippled cousin and younger brother, returning days later to find the village burned to the ground and everyone- including her parents- gone. If the children are to survive, find their parents again and reclaim a sense of who they are, Hasina will have to summon all her courage to navigate this terrifying new world.
This book doesn’t shy away from some very confronting issues. But racial persecution, murder, human trafficking, child abuse and starvation are all presented in a way that is accessible for its 11-14-year-old audience. Not only is this story authentic and beautifully written, it’s enormously important because it takes a very complex topic and presents it to children in a way that they can understand but also relate to. In doing so it helps them to see that no matter where people live, what language they speak or what they believe in, when it comes to the things that really matter, we are all the same.
Reviewed by Deborah Kelly