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News > Old Girls' Association > Spotlight on Alexandra Blanchard (HH 2014)

Spotlight on Alexandra Blanchard (HH 2014)

Interviewed for the OGA Chain 2022
Interviewed for the OGA Chain 2022

Alexandra left St Swithun’s in 2014, having completed A-levels in English, chemistry and history. She went on to read English literature and language at King’s College, London which she describes as: Being a dream to be able to spend time reading books and coming up with elaborate theories about the characters and plotlines.

Shortly after university, Alexandra was sitting under a tree chatting with a friend (also called Alex) who she had originally met in a Virginia Woolf seminar. They were discussing the differences between the experiences of the Syrian refugees Alex had met and the Western Saharan refugees Alexandra had met. The former had already come to the UK from a camp in Iraq and were currently able to seek refuge whereas the latter were still trapped in a ‘temporary’ camp the government had displaced them to 47 years previously. It got them wondering what other stumbling blocks people came up against when trying to move across borders and the idea for their book was born.

It was far from a simple process for them both however and they experienced their own barriers during the research period. Visas to Algeria were cancelled at the last minute and Covid lockdown stopped a planned trip to Greece but slowly and steadily they made new contacts, built trust and discovered some harrowing stories.

It was an emotional experience, listening to the many tales of hardship and torture, of people mysteriously disappearing and of families being torn apart but Alexandra also feels there was a common thread of joyfulness which ran through many of them. It was humbling to learn of selfless people in exile still fighting to overcome obstacles and defend those less fortunate than themselves.

One aim of the book, entitled Wander Women: Tales of Transgression in a Bordered World, is to put names, faces and indeed personalities to the homogenous anonymous mass seeking refuge and asylum, who are so often dehumanised by the press. The other is to help educate readers as to the genuine plight of these ill-fated people who face unnecessary prejudice alongside their displacement difficulties. Both Alexandra and Alex are delighted to have now finished the book and they are eagerly awaiting its publication on December 8th. Alexandra would love to see it turned into a documentary or film in the future, but in the meantime is continuing with her podcast The Grand Thunk and has also begun her second book. Her valuable advice to aspiring writers is: If writing is your passion, then sit and write! Don’t let your ideas be passing thoughts...sit down and write a little every day.

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