Book Review: Tima Kurdi, The Boy on the Beach: My Family’s Escape from Syria and Our Hope for a New Home

Published date01 April 2019
Date01 April 2019
Subject MatterBook Reviews
206 Book Reviews
Some of the key findings, as noted by authors, and also obvious from the nature
of the results themselves, are striking in their impact. Goa tops Indian states in
overall development rankings followed by four north-eastern states—Nagaland,
Sikkim, Manipur and Mizoram—among the top 10. Himachal Pradesh, Kerala
and Punjab also figure among the top 10, as does Jammu & Kashmir, a result
bound to surprise many. Greater surprises are in store for readers after closer
perusal of the ranking subcategories, including observations such as security
ranking of ‘troubled’ Manipur being far higher than those of Andhra, Gujarat and
West Bengal; Odisha, while being among the lowest in human development and
security rankings, scoring much higher than industrialized counterparts Tamil
Nadu, Maharashtra and Karnataka in ‘Voice and Confidence’; and Kerala, not-
withstanding outstanding achievements in human development, ranking relatively
low in security and voice. There are, in addition, more ‘myth-buster’ results like
most small states and much of the north-eastern region outperforming bigger
‘brand’ states such as Gujarat, Andhra, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra vindicating
what authors forcefully emphasize in the concluding chapter: The notable absence
of an ‘ideal model’ (p. 149) among Indian states. Indeed, the absence of such a
model, however popular, its notional iteration might be among media, business
and the political communities, is one of the foremost takeaways from the book.
The complexity of studying development becomes further obvious as one
comes to terms with the findings of the book. One also amazes at the vast conver-
sation and popular narrative that has grown in India around competitive federalism
and the fierce race-to-the-top that Indian states are apparently engaged in. The
narrative, mostly jingoistic and devoid of serious academic inputs and scholarship,
diverts attention from what the states should actually be doing: Taking closer
looks at where they stand in the eyes of their people in delivering better quality of
lives and ensuring more dignified and meaningful existences. Care and compas-
sion must precede competition for achieving truly inclusive development. The
reader can hardly avoid resonance with this fundamental impression.
Amitendu Palit
Senior Research Fellow and Research Lead
(Trade and Economic Policy),
Institute of South Asian Studies,
National University of Singapore, Singapore
Tima Kurdi, The Boy on the Beach: My Family’s Escape from Syria and
Our Hope for a New Home. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2018,
241 pp., $26.00 (hardcover).
DOI: 10.1177/0020881719848241
The year 2015 witnessed two mass migrations–that of the Rohingyas fleeing into
neighbouring states in the face of state led persecution in Myanmar and second,
Syrians fleeing the civil war in their homeland.

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