Homes: A Refugee Story by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah

This is why we need books. How else could we, being privileged to be born in a safe country, possibly know what a person like Abu Bakr has been through.

4/5 stars.
ebook, 136 pages.
Read on February 5, 2019.

For those that know nothing about this book going into it, as I did, I encourage you to keep it that way because by the time I got to the end I was blown away on how this novel came to be. Also, I don’t know about you but as a Canadian, this book fills me with pride knowing that we are continuing to make this kind of impact, especially considering the current political atmosphere. I read this book in one sitting because I was so in awe of Abu Bakr’s story.

canada-reads-2019-chuck-comeau
Chuck Comeau will be defending Homes during the debates on March 25-28, 2019.

This is the first book in the Canada Reads 2019 shortlist that I have read so far. Will it take the cake during the debates? We will find out.

 

Abu Bakr and his family were originally from Iraq but when tensions turned violent over Shias and the Sunnis his father made the decision to move to Syria in hopes of a safer and better life. Abu Bakr is just a boy when he makes this move and initially, he is filled with excitement as it means that he gets to be close to his cousins. However, this safe haven turns into a war zone under president Assad and Abu Bakr’s childhood is robbed from him as he comes into his teenage years knowing the sounds of bullets, the colour of blood and ripped flesh, as well as intense grief and fear as it rips through Syria. Abu Bakr’s father had a plan from the start when they moved to Syria and it was to get on a refugee list with the UN. He was diligent and he called all the time to try and get his family somewhere safer. His diligence eventually pays off but it still comes with a steep emotional fee for Abu Bakr and his family.

Once in Canada Abu Bakr and his family face a new set of trials, starting with learning English since none of them speak a word. Here Abu Bakr gives an honest account of his first-time experiences in Canada and how he learned to connect with others through soccer.

So here is where I think the spoiler is, as I am reading this book I got the impression that Abu Bakr is full grown man discussing his childhood and how he came to live in Canada with his remarkable and tragic story. Then I get to the acknowledgements I come to realize that Abu Bakr is still a high school student and has only been in Canada a few years! With the help of his English teacher, Winnie Yeung, the two of them create this moving story of his journey to Canada.  What an achievement! I mean, what the hell were you doing when you his age? Certainly not learning how to survive in a war-ridden and death-filled country and then learning another language to write a selling novel about the whole ordeal. This is why we need books. How else could we, being privileged to be born in a safe country, possibly know what a person like Abu Bakr has been through. How can we come to appreciate what we have with gratitude? We listen and we read.

For anyone that doesn’t understand the refugee crisis and supports closing borders, I beg you to read a few more books like this one. Stories of immigration and refugees in Canada are becoming more prominent and it’s because it’s becoming a part of who we are and their stories are becoming ours. This book felt extra special to me as Abu Bakr moved to a city that’s three hours away from where I grew up and knowing that he has had a positive experience with Canadians warms my heart. I would highly recommend this light, short, and moving read for any Canadians. I would also extend this book recommendation to any Americans who want to know more about the positive experiences of keeping your borders open.

My Favourite Reads of 2018

The best books I read this year. You won’t want to miss this.

2018 has come to a close and I had another great year of reading (I hope you did too)! I’m pretty happy that I managed to reach my reading goal again this year and I am hoping to amp up my goal in 2019. As I like to do at the end of every year, is look back at the books I read and pick my top five fiction reads and my top five non-fiction reads. So, here we go! 

Fiction:


The Travelling Cat Chronicles
I am not a crier. I don’t think I have ever cried reading a book but damn, this one brought me really close. I enjoyed this light-hearted novel so much that I read it twice in 2018. If you want an easy read that’s narrated by a cat, check this book out.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane 
It isn’t very often that I read a description that legitimately makes me want to read a book and sticks with me. I enjoyed this book so much that I gifted three copies of it this year because of its great plot and characters.

Killing Commendatore 
I waited years for the next Murakami novel and it finally arrived late in 2018. I was not disappointed and in my opinion, other Murakami fans won’t be either.

A Spark of Light
This was my first Jodi Picoult novel and I am sure now it won’t be my last. This timely and relevant novel impressed me with it’s depth and readability as well as its perfect commentary on current political events in the US involving women’s reproductive rights.

The Space Between Us
This was my first book by this author. I was really impressed with the character depth in this novel and felt very involved in this dramatic novel involving families. Thankfully the author released a sequel to this book in the late spring of 2018 that I still need to add to my reading list.

Non-Fiction:

Into Thin Air
Okay, so I was a bit behind on this bandwagon but that doesn’t make this novel any less riveting. If you want to know what climbing Mt. Everest is like without having to step foot on it I don’t think there are too many other books that could give you that experience. This book is a nail-biting and heart-breaking read.

Precious Cargo
One of my favourite reads from the Canada Reads 2018 debate for its funny and heartwarming tale of some pretty awesome kids and one lost adult who learned a lot from them.

Forgiveness
This book actually won Canada Reads 2018 and while I enjoyed this novel, I appreciated Precious Cargo a bit more. This novel has some phenomenal historical content that I feel Canadians should read.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark
This book was all the rage this last year due the author’s untimely death which also helped with the arrest of this elusive killer. The author’s voice is unique and engaging and it is a shame that we have lost such a great true-crime writer with such passion and talent.

Tea and Tea Set
I have read a few books on tea and so far this one has been my favourite. It’s nearly an unknown book but it’s content is quite good. I picked it up at a teahouse in Hong Kong and if you want to learn more about Chinese tea and can get your hands on this book I would highly recommend it.

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

You think, “Great, I understand this. I got this. I can understand Stephen Hawking, damn I’m smart!”. It is a false hope.

3/5 stars.
ebook, 280 pages
Read from September 26, 2018 to October 5, 2018.

Stephen Hawking was a brilliant man, I don’t think there are many that can deny that (well, maybe a few religious fundamentalists). All over the world, the science community mourned the loss of Hawking this last spring when his struggles with ALS came to an end. Hawking made powerful contributions to the realms of physics, he was also an accomplished author and was one of the most recognizable faces of a modern-day genius. After his passing, I meant to finally read one of his books and while it’s a bit delayed I did finally manage to. I clearly did not know what I was getting into.

Despite being an English major, I have always enjoyed the sciences. That is, except for physics because I fucking suck at it. That doesn’t mean that I’m not interested in the questions that physicists have, it’s that my brain isn’t capable of doing the equations to solve them. I’m still interested in the process and the conclusion, just when someone else does them and then I can read about it later. Having said that, this book was by no means a cakewalk and I would be lying if I said I understood it all. The first part of the book gently sucks you in as the content feels like a nice refresher on high-school level physics. You think, “Great, I understand this. I got this. I can understand Stephen Hawking, damn I’m smart!”. It is a false hope. sh I do not know the target audience that Hawking was aiming for as some parts of this book break down the concepts so well that any beginner can grasp them but the once the quantum physics comes in and Hawkings starts talking about black holes, he just assumes that his brief intro to physics basics will be enough to understand the hard concepts and theories he then elaborates on for the rest of the novel.

Would I say this book is enjoyable? Not really. Is it worth reading? Yes. Is it important? Yes. Despite its challenges this book is probably as simple as these complex concepts are going to get and it’s mind-blowing to look at our world, space and the universe from this perspective.

“I am just a child who has never grown up. I still keep asking these ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions. Occasionally, I find an answer.”