[Dying to Live] serves as a work of activism, making visible those who too often, through some combination of indifference and design, are kept invisible. . . . it would be an excellent addition to a high school library or the bookshelf of a religious institution. Vella’s riveted focus on the lives of actual human beings helps her to maintain moral clarity; she may not go deep into geopolitical context or policy analysis, but her overarching goal is to humanize the consequences, and at that she succeeds brilliantly.
An individual’s life can change by the moment. Danielle Vella’s Dying to Live: Stories from Refugees on the Road to Freedom deconstructs what this means for people fleeing from their homelands. The stories, guided by the author’s commentary, awaken the audience to this distinct migrant population. The brave people sharing their stories strive to make sense of their uprooted lives, and the reader confronts the tough decisions they were compelled to make... All these narratives underscore the challenges Vella expresses with writing this powerful, thought-provoking book. Inspired by the Book of Matthew 7:12 and other heartfelt Biblical references, the last chapter ends with an appeal to one narrator’s particular belief that “if people out there know about such stories, they will act to ensure they never happen again” (179). Vella ends with a stirring appeal to readers to not let him, and others like him, down.