Key Texts

Far From the Madding Crowd
Far From the Madding Crowd

The worlds of film and literature have long been intertwined, each with the ability to open up the other in remarkable ways. The films selected in this list, covering all age groups, are particularly successful adaptations of classic books which are often to be found on the curriculum and in the classroom. Ranging from the remarkably faithful to the audaciously radical, all of the titles have made a significant impact with audiences, and retain messages that remain relevant to young people, even if their source material was written generations ago. Whether they are used in the classroom to aid teaching of a particular text, or simply as great films in their own right, we hope they will inspire young people to return to the source material with fresh eyes, or perhaps pick up something new for the first time. 

You can find separate specific film lists for adaptations of Shakespeare and Roald Dahl, as well as a separate film list for adaptations of slightly more alternative, but equally engaging works. 

 

Winnie the Pooh

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration69 mins

Winnie the Pooh(2011)

This gentle, whimsical animated Walt Disney feature uses the old-school, hand-drawn style of the classic A. A. Milne children's books it's based on.

A.A. Milne’s stories of the bear with a big heart who loves honey have been enchanting children for generations. This gentle animation is the perfect companion piece to those books, using traditional animation and oodles of charm to capture the hearts of a whole new audience.

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The Iron Giant

CertU

Age group7–14

Duration86 mins

The Iron Giant(1999)

Superbly animated adaptation following young Hogarth's discovery of a colossal, friendly robot, and his plight to protect him from government agents.

Based on Ted Hughes’ classic story The Iron Man, this animation has long been one of the most popular titles at Into Film and is now regarded as a genuine classic of children’s cinema. With its roots in the space race of the 1960s, the film is full of heart and is guaranteed to ignite the imagination of young people.

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Watership Down

CertU

Age group7–14

Duration88 mins

Watership Down(1978)

Moving and rewarding animation about rabbits on a long journey to safety.

Adapted from Richard Adams' novel, Watership Down is a moving and rewarding experience for all viewers, although the film does not shy away from exploring dark subject matter. The tale is an enchanting one, and a classic of British cinema, but should be viewed beforehand before showing to younger audiences.  

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Charlotte's Web

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration93 mins

Charlotte's Web(2006)

Charlotte's Web, adapted from the popular children's novel, captures the magic of a wonderful friendship between a pig and a spider.

E.B. White’s children’s classic is a wonderful story of friendship, in this case between a pig and a spider. Full of charm and magic, this film is a worthy adaptation of one of the most popular children’s books of all time, dealing with friendship, community and the environment.

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Babe

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration89 mins

Babe(1995)

A heartwarming and very funny family tale of a pig with a penchant for sheep-herding, much to the chagrin of the local sheepdog.

Talking pigs of course also play a key part in Babe, adapted from Dick King Smith’s The Sheep-Pig about a pig who is desperate to be a sheep-dog. As well as being terrifically entertaining and full of cheeky charm, the fillm contains wonderful messages about refusing to simply accept your apparent role in life.

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The Wind In The Willows

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration83 mins

The Wind In The Willows(1996)

Terry Jones wrote and directed this charmingly modernised version of Kenneth Grahame's 1908 children's classic.

This colourful, eccentric tale of three friends Mole, Rat and Badger follows their struggle to defend their riverside homes from the rapacious Weasels' plans to bulldoze their rural idyll and build a dog-food factory. With an all-star comic cast, this is a delightful adaptation of Kenneth Graham’s classic.

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Muppet Treasure Island

CertU

Age groupAll ages

Duration95 mins

Muppet Treasure Island(1996)

Trademark Muppet lunacy abounds in this musical adventure about a quest to claim buried treasure using an old pirate map.

As always, the Muppets prove once again that they are as capable of turning a classic book into a great film as anybody. Robert Louis Stevenson’s swashbuckling tale is turned into a slightly mad musical comedy, but Long John Silver is never far away and the book’s spirit remains intact.

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Diary of a Wimpy Kid

CertPG

Age group7–14

Duration92 mins

Diary of a Wimpy Kid(2010)

Funny and painful by turns, Diary of A Wimpy Kid is a clever take on pre-teen angst.

A perennial favourite amongst young Into Film members, this school comedy based on Jeff Kinney’s series of books has a fantastic message about learning to be yourself. Its painfully funny take on pre-teen angst will appeal to anyone who ever wanted to be the popular kid in school.

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Swallows and Amazons

CertPG

Age group7–14

Duration97 mins

Swallows and Amazons(2016)

Adaptation of Arthur Ransome’s timeless novel about four siblings embarking on an extraordinary adventure whilst on holiday in the Lake District.

When school is out, the best thing to do is to go in search of adventure. Arthur Ransome’s timeless classic about young siblings on holiday in the Lake District is winningly adapted here, taking in themes of self-discovery, adventure and exploration, offering a perfect antidote to our increasingly digital lives.

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The Railway Children

CertU

Age group7–14

Duration106 mins

The Railway Children (1970)

Iconic story about three London children moving to the country after their father is falsely imprisoned, forced to live in poverty in rural Yorkshire.

Sharing many of the themes of Swallows & Amazons, and based on equally beloved source material The Railway Children has a timeless quality, offering adventure and excitement, but grounding those thrills in the everyday, despite being set more than 100 years ago.

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A Little Princess

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration93 mins

A Little Princess(1995)

Adaptation of a classic children's tale, in which a young girl is forced to go to boarding school abroad due to World War I upheaval.

The fate of children during wartime has long been a popular source of material in young people’s literature. Frances Hodgson Burnett’s story of the same name was first published in 1905, but the film changes the setting to World War One in America. With a sense of magical realism, the film vividly captures a world in upheaval seen through the eyes of a child.

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Oliver Twist

CertU

Age group7+

Duration110 mins

Oliver Twist(1948)

Adaptation of the famous Charles Dickens novel, about a boy who grows up in a brutal workhouse in Victorian London before joining a pickpocket gang.

The Charles Dickens novel of course needs no introduction, and has been the inspiration for many films over the years. However David Lean’s arguably remains the most successful, bringing Victoria London to life as a space that is at once terrifying and fascinating, full of unforgettable – and occasionally frightening – characters.

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Great Expectations

CertPG

Age group11+

Duration113 mins

Great Expectations(1946)

Classic David Lean adaptation of the Dickens novel about an orphan with a mysterious benefactor.

Lean also found great success adapting Dickens in this classic adaptation from 1946. Known for its fidelity to the source material, and remaining remarkably accessible, the film is ideal for helping young people to unlock the complexity of what can be quite a challenging text.

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Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone

CertPG

Age group7–16

Duration146 mins

Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone(2001)

The first in a series of magical adventures with schoolboy wizard Harry Potter.

The Harry Potter series of course needs no introduction. Amongst the series’ many charms, it is an often excruciatingly accurate insight into the sheer terror of starting life at a new school, where you don’t know anyone and everybody else appears full of confidence. As Harry and the rest of Hogwarts quickly discovers, neither is really the case…

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Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief

CertPG

Age group7–14

Duration120 mins

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief(2010)

Fun adventure about a modern American who finds out he is the son of ancient Greek god Poseidon, and that Zeus thinks he stole his lightning bolt.

Taking the world of Greek mythology and placing them into a modern setting, this visually lavish adventure story bears many resemblances to the Harry Potter series, with its story of magic, adventure and mystery, but like the Rick Riordan stories, remains huge fun in its own right.

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Holes

CertPG

Age group7–14

Duration112 mins

Holes(2003)

Offbeat film about a kid who's sent to a sinister correctional facility in the desert to dig holes after being falsely accused of theft.

This comedy adventure, faithfully adapted from Louis Sachar’s novel, is imaginative, inventive family entertainment, full of visual flourishes and a genuine weight to its story. Like the book, the film is likely to enchant as well as challenge its young audience.

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Sense And Sensibility

CertU

Age group11+

Duration130 mins

Sense And Sensibility(1995)

Excellent Ang Lee-directed adaptation of the Jane Austen novel.

Ang Lee is one of the most eclectic directors working today, and this playful adaptation of Jane Austen’s beloved romance remains one of his most fondly remembered films. Austen’s sharp words and characterisation are brought to life in wonderfully witty, occasionally acerbic fashion by the likes of Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant and a young Kate Winslet.

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The Remains Of The Day

CertU

Age group14+

Duration128 mins

The Remains Of The Day(1993)

Is it OK to have a central character who never seizes control of his own life? That is the challenge that The Remains of the Day sets itself.

Emma Thompson also stars in this subtle, moving drama adapted from Ishiguro’s Booker Prize winning novel, taking in very British themes of class, emotional reserve and repression. Impeccably performed and steeped in elegance, the film is a masterclass in turning seminal pieces of literature into memorable cinema.

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Lord Of The Flies

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration88 mins

Lord Of The Flies(1989)

Based on William Golding's famous novel about a group of boys stranded on a desert island who create their own brutal society.

William Golding’s seminal story of a group of boys trapped on a desert island has had a huge influence on film and literature. This adaptation differs from the text in interesting ways, placing more focus on the character of Ralph, and has acquired a cult following. Full of visual spectacle, it brings the book to life in vivid ways.

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The History Boys

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration107 mins

The History Boys(2006)

British film about an ambitious headmaster who hires a specialist, but eccentric history professor to get a group of pupils to get into Oxbridge.

Alan Bennett’s play about a group of students at a grammar school in Sheffield was an instant classic, launching the careers of a new generation of male actors almost single-handedly. The film adaptation reunites that remarkable original cast, retaining the text’s wit, eccentricity, literary allusions and inspiring message about embracing life.

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The Woman In Black

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration92 mins

The Woman In Black(2012)

Prepare for a scare, as Daniel Radcliffe tackles a ghostly terror in his first film post-Harry Potter.

A very different adaptation of a West End hit, Susan Hill’s novel, helped by Daniel Radcliffe in the lead role, was transformed into one of the most popular horror films of a generation. Full of jumps and scares, the story is also a complex character study and powerful portrait of grief and isolation.

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Dorian Gray

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration107 mins

Dorian Gray(2009)

Adaption of the classic Oscar Wilde novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray.

This adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s legendary novel about a man seemingly untouched by the passing of time also ramps up the horror. Full of the writer’s unparalleled wit and turn-of-phrase, the story is told in accessible, crowd-pleasing fashion, but without shying away from the text’s darker and disturbing themes.

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Dracula

CertPG

Age group11+

Duration73 mins

Dracula(1931)

Bram Stoker's immortal vampire creation creeps onto the screen in what is perhaps his most famous incarnation.

Some literary creations, it seems, are tailor made for cinema, offering up countless interpretations and narrative possibilities beyond their source text. Dracula is one such character. Only loosely based on the Bram Stoker novel, this version, starring Bela Lugosi continues to terrify audiences and its vision of the character remains indelible.

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Jane Eyre

CertPG

Age group11+

Duration118 mins

Jane Eyre(2011)

Charlotte Bronte's much-filmed 1847 novel is reinvigorated for a new generation in this brooding period romance.

The 2011 adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s novel oozes gothic romance and haunting atmosphere. Energetically directed and full of startling imagery, this is another example of classic pieces of literature being powerfully brought into the 21st century without compromising any of their text’s themes, language and setting, opening themselves up to new audiences.

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Bright Star

CertPG

Age group11+

Duration116 mins

Bright Star(2009)

Intense drama based on the love of early 19th century poet John Keats for the beautiful and talented daughter of his landlady.

This beautiful drama from Australian director Jane Campion tells the story of the romance between Fanny Brawne and poet John Keats. Through Brawne’s eyes we experience the evocative nature of Keats' poetry, as well as the frustrations of women restrained by the social conventions and expectations of the time, in a manner that still feels current.

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The Great Gatsby

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration137 mins

The Great Gatsby(1974)

Lavish screen adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald's famed Jazz Age novel about a man who can buy anything he wants but wants a woman he can't have.

Baz Lurhmann’s flamboyant version of Fitzgerald’s iconic jazz-age novel divided audiences on its release, but this earlier, elegant version starring Robert Redford is an underrated gem. This faithful adaptation is marked out by its lavish costume and production design, but like the novel, is far more probing than its surface beauty suggests.

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A Streetcar Named Desire

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration119 mins

A Streetcar Named Desire(1951)

A memorable performance from a young Marlon Brando, this is a powerful adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play.

Containing some of the most memorable performances in screen history, this adaptation of Tennesse Williams’ play has lost none of its power, sensuality and brutality. One of the defining pieces of modern American literature, the film and play have carved out a unique place in popular culture, their themes and characters remaining endlessly fascinating and relevant.

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A Single Man

Cert12

Age group14+

Duration101 mins

A Single Man(2009)

A striking film about a gay man who struggles to get through life after the death of his partner.

Designer Tom Ford may have been an unlikely choice to adapt Christopher Isherwood’s moving novel for the big screen, but the result is an elegant, immaculately constructed film that not only looks beautiful but gets to the heart of the story’s themes of coming to turns with loss, homosexuality and the transcendent power of literature itself.

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The Talented Mr Ripley

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration133 mins

The Talented Mr Ripley(1999)

Unsettling drama about cunning, obsessed Tom Ripley seeking to steal the identity of a wealthy, jazz-loving playboy he meets at an Italian resort.

There have been many successful adaptations of Patricia Highsmith’s novels. Tom Ripley, her most celebrated and disturbing creation is brought to life here in this beautiful, elegant adaptation from Anthony Minghella that is full of dark and disturbing imagery, and characters that are both seductive and unsettling.

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Sunset Song

Cert15

Age group16+

Duration133 mins

Sunset Song(2015)

Adaptation of a classic Scottish novel about a young farmer girl's coming of age at the beginning of the 20th century.

Widely regarded as one of the most important Scottish novels of the 20th century, Lewis Gibbon’s novel is sensitively adapted by director Terence Davies. Taking in life, death and war, the film reveals farmer girl Chris Guthrie to be one of literature’s great female characters and an enduring symbol of hope.

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Far From The Madding Crowd

Cert12

Age group11–16

Duration113 mins

Far From The Madding Crowd(2015)

Lively adaptation of the Thomas Hardy classic with Carey Mulligan as the charming, independent heroine.

Even audiences seemingly adverse to the conventions of costume drama are likely to be drawn in by this lively adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s classic. Carey Mulligan is fantastic in the role of Bathsheba Everdene, and the film manages to delicate balance of producing a faithful period adaptation, but one that feels utterly contemporary.

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Atonement

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration118 mins

Atonement(2007)

Epic tale of love, betrayal and guilt which begins in a country house in 1935 and spans several decades.

The costume drama also receives a vivid modern updating in Joe Wright’s lively, seductive adaptation of Ian McEwan’s Booker-prize nominee. Famed for its breathtaking depiction of World War Two Dunkirk in particular, this star-driven film is also romantic, epic and emotionally raw, opening up the text in many insightful ways.

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Regeneration

Cert15

Age groupAll ages

Duration108 mins

Regeneration(1997)

Based on the World War I experience of soldier-poet Siegfried Sassoon, who suffered a mental breakdown on realising there was no point to the fighting

World War One is the focus for another epic based on a Booker-prize nominated novel, Pat Barker’s Regeneration. Based on the experiences of Siegfried Sassoon, the film vividly captures life in the trenches, but also the horrific effect the fighting had on the mental health of countless soldiers.

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The Book Thief

Cert12

Age group11–16

Duration126 mins

The Book Thief(2013)

The Book Thief tells the story of Liesel, an extraordinary and courageous young girl sent to live with a foster family in World War Two Germany.

Returning to the theme of World War Two, Markus Zuzak’s novel is powerfully adapted for the screen, showing the horrors of war and Nazi Germany from a child’s point of view, but also providing a life-affirming message about the importance of literature to the human spirit and the power of the escapism it provides.

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The Kite Runner

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration125 mins

The Kite Runner(2007)

This adaptation is a powerful story of friendship and betrayal set in Afghanistan.

Providing a child’s insight into more modern warfare, this film, adapted from the 2003 bestseller about a young Afghani boy fleeing to the west after his country is invaded gives an important insight into a world largely only seen on the news. With two boys' friendship at its heart, it is a valuable example of storytelling generating empathy for people less advantage

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To Kill A Mockingbird

CertPG

Age group11+

Duration124 mins

To Kill A Mockingbird(1962)

Harper Lee adaptation about an idealistic white laywer in 1930s Alabama who takes on the case of a black man accused of an awful crime.

Harper Lee’s story of a white lawyer who takes on the case of a falsely accused black man uses a child’s perspective of the world to highlight issues of racism, prejudice, ignorance and injustice. The film is a bona-fide classic, Gregory Peck’s Atticus Finch remaining one of cinema’s most popular characters.

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The Help

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration140 mins

The Help(2011)

A moving story of friendship and heroism in the face of prejudice.

Kathryn Stockett’s popular novel about life in the American south during the civil rights movement was successfully adapted into this crowd-pleasing film that uses a surface lightness of touch to gently introduce complex issues around racism, prejudice and elitism. Its approach may be broad and generic at times, but the film remains accessible and thought-provoking.

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Beloved

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration165 mins

Beloved(1998)

Unsettling drama based on Toni Morrison's novel about a mysterious woman who enters the life of a former slave and is related to her disturbing past.

Toni Morrison’s disturbing novel uses elements of the gothic-horror genre to examine America’s legacy of slavery. Despite its star power, the film admirably eschews pursuing commercial appeal in favour of doing justice to its source material, refusing to compromise or sanitise its representation of the horrific.

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About a Boy

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration101 mins

About a Boy(2002)

Hugely likeable London-set story that tells the tale of an unlikely bond between bachelor Will and an odd young boy with a depressed mother.

Nick Hornby’s bestseller about a single mother struggling to raise her socially awkward son in modern London is perhaps the best adaptation of the author’s work to date. Full of warmth and wit, the film combines crowd-pleasing sensibilities with a rare emotional rawness and honesty.

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Paper Towns

Cert12

Age group11–16

Duration109 mins

Paper Towns(2015)

Adaptation of the successful young adult novel by John Green about a boy who has fallen in love with the enigmatic girl-next-door who goes missing.

The young adult novels of John Green have been astonishingly successful amongst readers. This adaptation is definitely influenced by the tropes of the countless high-school movies that preceded it, but also provides a refreshingly sensitive portrayal of coming-of-age from a teenage boy’s point of view.

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How I Live Now

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration97 mins

How I Live Now(2013)

An often bleak story about disaffected teen Daisy who's sent to live with relatives in the countryside after the outbreak of World War Three.

Meg Rouseff’s award-winning, dystopian young-adult novel deals with some remarkably mature themes. It is a powerful, if harrowing story of love, survival and the impact of war. Saoirse Ronan is typically compelling in the central role in a tender film that goes beyond clichés.

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The Beach

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration114 mins

The Beach(2000)

Exciting adaptation of Alex Garland's best-seller about an aimless American backpacker going in search of an island paradise.

Writer Alex Garland has now found success as a director, with 2015’s Ex-Machina. His iconic debut novel, a modern day Lord of the Flies set amongst the backpacking culture of modern Thailand was controversial at the time for casting an American movie star as a British character, but all of the novel’s romance, evocative adventure and thirst for new experience remain.

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The Handmaid's Tale

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration104 mins

The Handmaid's Tale(1990)

Based on Margaret Atwood's novel, this futuristic fantasy's grim totalitarian world requires women to housekeep or have children for barren couples.

Dystopian futures are also the focus for this adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s Booker-nominated novel, scripted by playwright Harold Pinter. Taking place in a male-dominated police-state in which women are oppressed, the film is a worthy companion to its complex, provocative source material.

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War of the Worlds

Cert12

Age group11–16

Duration111 mins

War of the Worlds(2005)

Big budget movie version of HG Wells pioneering sci-fi alien invasion story.

Continuing the dystopian sci-fi theme, HG Wells’ timeless alien invasion story is relocated to contemporary America by Steven Spielberg. While the stability of the family unit is the centre of the story, Spielberg also uses the story as the base from which to raise uncomfortable questions about refugees and post 9/11 America, highlighting the text’s continuing relevance.

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