Canada Reads·Why I Write

Canada Reads authors Abu Bakr al Rabeeah & Winnie Yeung on why we need to understand the refugee experience

In this special Canada Reads 2019 edition of the CBC Books' video series, the co-authors of Homes talk about how caring for others is a part of our shared humanity.
In this special Canada Reads 2019 edition of the CBC Books' video series, the co-authors of Homes talk about how caring for others is a part of our shared humanity. 3:52

In the memoir Homes15-year-old Abu Bakr al Rabeeah recounts what it was like to spend his childhood in the middle of a civil war. 

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." 

Collaborative effort

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." 

Abu Bakr al Rabeeah and Winnie Yeung's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

CBC Books' Why I Write series features authors speaking on what literature means to them. 

The Canada Reads 2019 contenders


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