Book launch in collaboration with the Scottish Refugee Council

University of Glasgow Main Building

Credit: Glasgow Guardian / Madeleine Baker

Jonathan Peters
News Editor

The Fox Girl and White Gazelle tells the story of Reema, a Syrian refugee in Glasgow

A new children’s book written by former University of Glasgow student Victoria Williamson will be published later this month. Telling the story of Reema, a young Syrian refugee in Glasgow, The Fox Girl and White Gazelle will address themes of friendship, cultural and language differences, and finding a sense of belonging.

The author works as a primary school teacher, and the book was inspired by her time teaching a class of 6-year-olds in Glasgow, many of whose families were seeking asylum at the time.

A book launch and fundraising event will be held on Saturday 21 April at Hillhead Library on Byres Road, in collaboration with the Scottish Refugee Council (SRC). Twenty percent of the author royalties for the book will be donated to the charity, who provide help for refugees and people seeking asylum in Scotland. They were involved in drawing up the New Scots Refugee Strategy, which is the framework for welcoming refugees recently adopted by the Scottish government, endorsed by the United Nations Refugee Agency.

The book launch starts at 2pm, and in addition to a talk by the author, it will feature a discussion of the work of the SRC and a guest refugee speaker, who will share some of their experiences with the audience. There will be Scottish and Syrian snacks and music, book signings, and a raffle to raise funds for the SRC.

Explaining her motivation for writing this children’s book, Williamson told the Glasgow Guardian: “As a teacher, I loved to travel, and as well as working in schools in the UK, I also taught for a number of years in Cameroon, Malawi and China. During that time I met many children whose unique stories inspired my writing.

“The characters in my debut novel are a blend of many of these children’s voices.”

The author will be doing over 40 visits to primary schools in the Glasgow area between the end of April and June to talk to children about the refugee issues raised in the book. The story touches on a number of different issues facing young people, which Williamson has direct experience of as a teacher.

Describing the story, Williamson told us: “Caylin, a troubled school bully who is struggling to cope with the loss of her grandfather and deal with her mother’s alcohol addiction, and Reema, a Syrian Muslim refugee whose world has been turned upside down by war, were inspired by some of the children I have taught both in the UK and abroad.”

The author discovered the work of the SRC during research for the book. In addition to helping shape government policy, the SRC provide legal and support services for refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland.

Williamson told us that “reading the stories of newly arrived refugees, meeting some of the fundraising team to hear more about their work, and talking in person to young refugees settled in Aberdeen, inspired me to pledge to donate twenty percent of my author royalties from The Fox Girl and the White Gazelle to the Scottish Refugee Council to support the important work they do.”

The book has been shortlisted for the Teach Primary Book Awards. Anyone wishing to learn more about the book or the work of the Scottish Refugee Council can attend the launch at 2pm on Saturday 21 April at Hillhead Library on Byres Road.