Threads: From the Refugee Crisis by Kate Evans is a non-fictional graphic text, illustrating Evans’ experiences at a refugee camp located in the French port town of Calais. Evans sheds light on the issues of migrant Middle-Eastern and African people seeking asylum in the United Kingdom. Threads demonstrate a heartbreaking reality of an apparently intractable problem and exemplify statements for the treatment of refugees and the freedom of people. Using both her artistic abilities and poetic-fragmented sentences, Evans creates a compelling and ‘digestible’ graphic text for the reality of refugees that is a useful resource for educators, students, and parents.
Threads address a modern-day issue that is appropriate for high school levelled students in subjects such as English, The Arts, History, Geography, or Civics. As a graphic text with minimal words and sentences, Threads displays ‘digestible’ images of war, death, poverty, police brutality, bombs, and so on. Threads is a great tool for young people to introduce or further explain the reality of refugees, who may have not been exposed to it or have the right resources to have critical discussions. For teachers that are cautious about teaching sensitive political topics, may feel more comfortable showing students illustrations rather than real-life images or videos. The image below is an example of violence and death that may be suitable for young people or teachers rather than showing explicit ‘real-life’ photos or videos.
In the Ontario Curriculum Document for Grade 9 & 10 English strands such as Media Texts require teachers to cover overall expectations like Understanding Media Texts. The specific expectations like Interpreting Messages states, “interpret simple and complex media texts, identifying and explaining the overt and implied messages they convey (e.g., explain what the title and cover art of a graphic novel communicates about the story and its intended audience)” (52). Students can analyze the text Threads or look at the implications of media in the text itself. For example, the image below shows a tweet, “These refugees are safe in France where they could claim asylum if they wanted 2 shame they want our benefits 2 much!” (27) with a “NEWSFLASH!” at the bottom stating, “Three-quarters of residence of the Calais Jungle “do not feel safe”! Over half of the people surveyed reported “never feeling safe” at any time. Awake or asleep!” (27). Teachers can ask students to investigate similar rhetoric on social media platforms and who their intended audience is. This activity allows students to use technology in the classroom and create connections to relevant issues with the world around them.
Threads can be used as a tool in any high school level and the difficulty of the lesson can easily be adjusted by how questions are framed. Teachers can also gauge their classroom environment and students’ readiness to learn by either challenging or refocusing on themes, big ideas, etc. Teachers should be cautious about students that have certain political views about refugees and students in the class that may actually be refugees. It is important to address this issue to parents or guardians and to the students before starting the lesson or unit. If there is an issue that arises, it is important for teachers to be prepared to answer those questions or concerns accordingly.
In a YouTube video, “Threads: From the Refugee Crisis – Kate Evans,” Evans discusses how the story is not her story and although she gets to be the central character, Threads is about other people. I think it is really important that she acknowledges this point as she recognizes her privilege and their vulnerability in telling their story. She further describes how, although she saw images and videos on the news, she was not fully prepared for the experience she encountered in the Jungle. Evans deliberately makes note of her white privilege and the challenges she faced when encountering them.
Evans presents a powerful and significant message through images and text. The text ends with stating, “129 lone children disappeared from the camp during the evictions. No-one will ever know what happened to them all” (166) surrounded by floating paper cut-outs. I think her further message illustrates how Threads itself is just a book, like paper cut-outs and if you didn’t read the book or if you weren’t aware of what was happening in places like the Jungle than the problem isn’t there. It is important to raise awareness and share stories like the refugees in the Jungle. After reviewing Threads critically, I believe Evans’ text would be a great addition in a classroom. She brings forth an equitable lens by recognizing and acknowledging her privileges and sheds light on the heartbreaking reality of refugees.