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The Naked Don't Fear the Water
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Brief Descriptions

A journalist in Kabul follows his friend Omar as he goes underground on the refugee trail, witnessing first-hand the migration crisis, in this true story of love and friendship across borders, and an inquiry into our shared journey in a divided world. 35,000 first printing. - (Baker & Taylor)

A NYTBR Editor’s Choice 

“This is a book of radical empathy, crossing many borders – not just borders that separate nations, but also borders of form, borders of meaning, and borders of possibility. It is powerful and humane and deserves to find a wide, wandering readership.” — Mohsin Hamid, author of Exit West

In this extraordinary book, an acclaimed young war reporter chronicles a dangerous journey on the smuggler’s road to Europe, accompanying his friend, an Afghan refugee, in search of a better future.

In 2016, a young Afghan driver and translator named Omar makes the heart-wrenching choice to flee his war-torn country, saying goodbye to Laila, the love of his life, without knowing when they might be reunited again. He is one of millions of refugees who leave their homes that year.

Matthieu Aikins, a journalist living in Kabul, decides to follow his friend. In order to do so, he must leave his own passport and identity behind to go underground on the refugee trail with Omar. Their odyssey across land and sea from Afghanistan to Europe brings them face to face with the people at heart of the migration crisis: smugglers, cops, activists, and the men, women and children fleeing war in search of a better life. As setbacks and dangers mount for the two friends, Matthieu is also drawn into the escape plans of Omar’s entire family, including Maryam, the matriarch who has fought ferociously for her children’s survival. 

Harrowing yet hopeful, this exceptional work brings into sharp focus one of the most contentious issues of our times. The Naked Don’t Fear the Water is a tale of love and friendship across borders, and an inquiry into our shared journey in a divided world.



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Reviews Via Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Journalist Aikins debuts with a powerful account of the "long and dangerous journey" many Afghans take out of their war-torn country. At the center of the story is Omar (a pseudonym), a Sunni Muslim and former interpreter for the American military, who in 2016 took the "smuggler's road" to Europe after his application for a Special Immigrant Visa to the U.S. was denied. Raised in exile in Iran and Pakistan, Omar was a teenager when his family returned to Kabul in 2002 in the largest repatriation program in U.N. history. By October 2015, however, Afghanistan lay in tatters, with the Taliban back in control of the provincial capital of Kunduz and the U.S. government signaling it was on the way out. Going undercover as a "young Kabuli of modest background," to join Omar, Aikins characterizes the journey as "mostly waiting punctuated by moments of terror." He details Omar's reluctance to leave his Shia Muslim girlfriend and vividly describes roads lined with burned-out buses, overcrowded safe houses where migrants crack grim jokes, and unaccompanied Afghan children "mingl with the drug dealers and johns" on the streets of Athens. The result is a heart-wrenching portrait of resilience and ingenuity under the most trying of circumstances. Agent: Edward Orloff, McCormick Literary. (Feb.)

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