A Kurdish asylum seeker flees Iran and boards a leaky boat chugging toward a better life in Australia. What follows are six years behind bars on Manus Island, Australia’s off-shore detention center north of Papua New Guinea. The conditions are harsh, the tropical weather is unforgiving, and freedom feels further away than ever.
This “prison memoir” shows us the day-to-day challenges of living behind bars in a present-day hellhole, but it’s also short on personal details. For all the descriptions of cruelty, near starvation and poor sanitation, we never really come to know Boochani. What was his life like back in Iran? What about his family and his hopes for the future? Personal details are ignored in favor of theoretical ponderings about the kyriarchical system of oppression. We come to know the pain, but not the person who feels it. This creates an unfortunate distance between us and a man who suffers so needlessly for so long.