Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2023


Eberly College of Arts and Sciences




Contrary to many analyses of refugee narratives that focus on how their subject matter becomes compromised by issues of authority, believability, and expectation, this article explores how refugee novels such as Mohsin Hamid's Exit West and Helen Oyeyemi's Gingerbread lean into such problems in a way that appeals to the humanitarian imagination. These novels recognize the incomprehensibility of the refugee experience and play upon this reality by intermixing their stories with fairy tale elements. In doing so, the tropes of fairy tales provide these stories with greater narrative flexibility while making the unfamiliar realities of refugees comprehensible through familiar narrative structures. In this article, I interrogate the function and effect of this fusion of genres in Exit West and Gingerbread, examining how this practice both overcomes the narrative obstacles refugees face and reveals the allowances and limitations of the humanitarian imagination amid the current global refugee crisis.

Source Citation

Pishotti, Gabriella. "Unfairy Tales and Other Refugee Stories: Creating Relations through the Humanitarian Imagination in Mohsin Hamid's Exit West and Helen Oyeyemi's Gingerbread." Studies in the Novel, vol. 55 no. 1, 2023, p. 58-75. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/sdn.2023.0003.


Copyright Studies in the Novel, Johns Hopkins University Press 2023