In the fall of 2015, Steven Heighton made an overnight decision to travel to the frontlines of the Syrian refugee crisis in Greece and enlist as a volunteer. He arrived on the isle of Lesvos with a duffel bag and a dubious grasp of Greek, his mother's native tongue, and worked on the landing beaches and in OXY — a jerrybuilt, ad hoc transit camp providing simple meals, dry clothes, and a brief rest to refugees after their crossing from Turkey. In a town deserted by the tourists that had been its lifeblood, Heighton—alongside the exhausted locals and under-equipped international aid workers — found himself thrown into emergency roles for which he was woefully unqualified.
From the brief reprieves of volunteer-refugee soccer matches to the riots of Camp Moria, Reaching Mithymna is a firsthand account of the crisis and an engaged exploration of the borders that divide us and the ties that bind. (From Biblioasis)
Steven Heighton is a novelist, short story writer and poet from Toronto. His other books include the poetry collection The Waking Comes Late, which won the 2016 Governor General's Literary Award for poetry, and the novel The Nightingale Won't Let You Sleep.
Reaching Mithymna was on the shortlist for the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction.
- Found a typo in your book? Steven Heighton has a superhero for that
- Steven Heighton wants to stop sleepwalking through his life
- Steven Heighton on respecting your poetic elders, both real and imagined
- 47 works of Canadian nonfiction coming out in fall 2020
- The CBC Books fall 2020 reading list
- Steven Heighton reflects on working on the frontlines of the Syrian refugee crisis
- The best Canadian nonfiction of 2020
"This way," I call out, waving my hand. As if I pass for a trained guide — a legitimate authority who knows the town and our destination beyond it — the densely packed group follows without hesitation. They walk resolutely, almost marching, as they did after disembarking from the rescue ship. Their various clothes — long tunics, scarves, jeans or slacks, ragged blazers, hoodies, parkas — are mostly dark. A few of them sport thermal blankets like shiny superhero capes. Anyone not in a hijab has some kind of winter hat now. Their belongings they lug over the shoulder in black garbage bags, and each family has at least one, while the single men carry either a daypack or nothing at all.
Excerpted from Reaching Mithymna by Steven Heighton. Copyright © 2020 Steven Heighton Published by Biblioasis. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.