In her newly released children’s book “My Beautiful Colors, A Refugee Story” Dolores high school teacher Nyibol Bior translates her experience as a refugee in the Second Sudanese Civil War into lessons of perseverance, love and acceptance of different nationalities.
As a child in the 1980s, Bior’s village fled the Sudan violence by walking more than 1,000 miles to refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya with other families.
The harrowing journey was fraught with violence, xenophobia, discrimination, hunger and exhaustion. As a result of the Sudanese civil war, 2.5 million people died and 4 million were displaced. Bior’s family was granted political asylum in Kenya, then citizenship in America after a four-year application process.
During the war, her mother’s boat was accidentally bombed, Bior said. Her father was jailed, wrongly accused of fighting for the north, and tortured. The case was investigated by the United Nations and built the case for asylum in the U.S.
Growing up in Texas, Bior said she experienced some bullying and racism for the color of her skin and African nationality. But she also found love and support as she learned English, worked at a grocery story and graduated college with a teaching degree.
As a teacher, she seeks to inspire students to embrace the diversity of people in the world.
Bior, 37, has journaled about her refugee experience and relocation to America in preparation for publishing a memoir. She realized one chapter about surviving challenges as a young person would make a good children’s book.
“I have been wanting to write my story for the longest time,” she said in an interview Thursday. “In this book, I describe the challenges of my childhood, and use colors as metaphors for how we choose to view others and events.”
Instead of viewing people of African decent through prejudice, she teaches to see Black as beautiful. Instead of seeing red as war and hate, view the color as love.
Colors can have opposite meanings, Bior said, “and it is up to us see the side that is good because it will lead to treating others with respect and dignity.”
Make an effort to see the positive, she said. Another message of the book is that instead of defining herself as a victim of war, Bior chooses to focus on the support she experienced from family and friends that helped her survive the ordeal.
“It reminded me that humanity is not dead. I took their advice and kept going. People should be given the opportunity to keep going in life to produce and improve lives,” Bior said.
“My Beautiful Colors, A Refugee Story” is being published by Dorrance Publishing. The artwork was done by Bior’s friends Samantha Ferry, Deng Paul and Fana McHugh.
The book can be ordered at the Dorrance Publishing bookstore at bookstore.dorrancepublishing.com It is also available as an e-book.