The author describes the true events that inspired each of the stories. Captain Schroeder, Otto Schiendick, and the St. Louis were all real. The Jewish refugees aboard the St. Louis were not allowed off the boat because the Cuban official who issued their passports had fallen out of favor with the President of Cuba at the time, Federico Brú. Many of the refugees aboard the St. Louis were eventually killed in internment camps.

In 1994, after the riots that Isabel witnesses in Havana, Fidel Castro announced that people would not be punished if they tried to flee Cuba, in an effort to reduce the number of protestors in the country. United States immigration policy for Cuba has changed over the years, but in 2015, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the Cuban and American embassies would reopen, reestablishing diplomatic relations. Commercial flights to Cuba have resumed and the policies regarding the apprehension of Cuban refugees was changed.

The author states that, according to the United Nations, more than 470,000 people have been killed since the conflict in Syria began in 2011. More than 10 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes, 4.8 million of which have left Syria as refugees. Between 2011 and 2016, the United States only admitted 18,007 Syrian refugees. In January of 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump “signed Executive Order 13769, indefinitely suspending the entry of all Syrian refugees into the United States.” 

The author then discusses what the reader can do to help refugees, including supporting refugee aid organizations, such as UNICEF and Save the Children.