In January 2017, Sami and Hadi live in Boston and are looking forward to the birth of their first child. The young adults were born and raised in Syria. Sami came to the United States seven years earlier on a scholarship to Harvard and Hadi arrived two years ago, a refugee escaping Syria’s civil war. Though life as immigrants isn’t easy and the longing for home lingers—sometimes in the shadows, at other times like a tumultuous, drowning wave—Sami and Hadi are filled with hope as they imagine their child’s future, because their child will be granted American citizenship and, they assume, the protection and rights that entails.
When Sami is five months pregnant, Hadi’s father dies unexpectedly. Hadi flies back for the funeral, and the couple expect to see each other again in a few days. But on Jan. 27, 2017, the president of the United States signs “Executive Order 13769: Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” It’s a travel ban on anyone coming from certain countries, including Syria. As Sami waits at the airport for Hadi on the day of his expected arrival, she is injured in the angry crowd protesting the travel ban. As the horror of Hadi’s circumstances and Sami’s precarious situation overwhelm the couple, their lives evolve in a way they never expected, and their hearts are filled with disillusionment and despair: “This isn’t right! This isn’t the story I was told, promised. The dream, to come to America, work hard, become somebody. Become better and larger than who I was and could be in the life I left. A life beyond the walls in Syria, beyond mere existence. Freedom, that was the deal!”
In this searing, intense novel for adults, author Yara Zgheib poetically and lyrically employs the metaphor of migrating sandpipers and the challenges and dangers they encounter to shine a light on the trauma, sadness, injustice, and fear experienced by refugees, immigrants, and other displaced people who feel they have “no land to light on.” A timely exposé, No Land to Light On is a penetrating critique of the misuse of power and the fallout of xenophobic attitudes. Contains offensive language. (Atria Books)