Canada Reads authors Abu Bakr al Rabeeah & Winnie Yeung on why we need to understand the refugee experience
The Edmonton student and refugee from Iraq and Syria told his ESL teacher Winnie Yeung that he wanted to share his story to help others. Over a series of interviews, the two created the book, which was a 2018 finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction. It's now a Canada Reads 2019 contender, where it will be defended by Simple Plan drummer Chuck Comeau during the debates.
The Canada Reads debates take place March 25-28, 2019.
CBC Books talked to the co-authors for the latest installment of the Why I Write series.
Speaking of home
Abu Bakr: "I told my story because I moved from Iraq to Syria — and from Syria to Iraq — and then I saw this big misunderstanding. People don't know much about where I came from."
Winnie: "I was so moved by Abu Bakr and his family's strength and resilience that I really wanted to honour their life by telling their story and helping them tell their story."
Abu Bakr: "I really wanted to share my story."
Abu Bakr: "I first got my family's permission to tell our story. At school, I would just talk about my life. Every day, I told a new story."
Winnie: "It took us about three months of interviewing in order to write the book. Abu Bakr always led the conversations. He would come in every day and I would ask him what he wanted to talk about."
A common message
Winnie: "A common theme that I noticed as I was listening to Abu Bakr and his family members' story is their sense of togetherness and how this family, out of pure love and survival held together and they helped each other in a way that was full of light.
Abu Bakr: "I think it's important for the people to know the good and bad stuff that happened back home. People should know that we're really similar to each other and there's not a big difference. We should just know that there are people who are still suffering over there."
CBC Books' Why I Write series features authors speaking on what literature means to them.
- Episode #1: Catherine Hernandez
- Episode #2: Shyam Selvadurai
- Episode #3: Drew Hayden Taylor
- Episode #4: Farzana Doctor
- Episode #5: Trish Salah
- Episode #6: Adam Dickinson
- Episode #7: Pasha Malla
- Episode #8: Max Eisen
- Episode #9: Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette
- Episode #10: Lindsay Wong
- Chuck Comeau defending Homes by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah with Winnie Yeung
- Lisa Ray defending Brother by David Chariandy
- Ziya Tong defending By Chance Alone by Max Eisen
- Yanic Truesdale defending Suzanne by Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, translated by Rhonda Mullins
- Joe Zee defending The Woo-Woo by Lindsay Wong