Child migrants - then and now!

Posted by Yvonne Barlow on Monday, October 3, 2016
Child migrants are the topic of our next novel. Listen to the Child by Elizabeth Howard tells the story of children shipped from London's overcrowded streets to the wide open farms of Canada in the 1870s. This was before Dr. Barnardo and others took up the practice. The missionaries believed they were doing the right thing, that God had shown them this green and promised land and that by taking children from thieving, prostitution and gambling they were rescuing them from the sins of the world.
There was also another agenda - to fill those new lands with British people who were white and protestant. 
The farmers in Canada appeared to welcome the children. Communities set up 'distribution homes' where the missionaries could arrive with their children, and farmers could visit and choose the best. All a farmer had to do was present a letter from a preacher to say that this was a God-fearing family and they were given a child. Of course some of the children were treated well. Others became like the deed of indenture that the farmer signed and were little more than slaves.
However, it does make me wonder - did other nations send their orphans to their colonies? 
While editing Listen to the Child, another book crept onto my horizon: The Lightless Sky by Gulwali Passarlay (Atlantic Books). This autobiography tells of Gulwali's mother sending him from Afghanistan, where both the Taliban and the US forces wanted him as a spy. Her last words to her 11-year-old son were, "Don't come back." The story of people smugglers who treat refugees as commodities, the kindness of some strangers, the betrayal by others, combines to tell of a child who had to grow up very quickly - just like the children our missionaries took and dumped so far from home. 
Both books put a face on the children who, through no fault of their own, are placed far from home and whose lives are in the care of strangers. I heartily recommend both.


Tags: "listen to the child" "elizabeth howard" "the lightless sky" "gulwali passarlay" "child migrants" 
blog comments powered by Disqus

About Me


Yvonne Barlow Editor at Hookline Books - where book clubs and readers choose the novels that go to print.

Would you like to receive our monthly newsletter?

Email:

Tags

Categories