Canada Reads·Highlight

Joe Zee & Chuck Comeau on the pain of leaving home

The Canada Reads 2019 panellists talk about the heartache refugees feel when leaving home behind.
On Day Two of Canada Reads, Joe Zee and Chuck Comeau discussed why the memoir Homes by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah with Winnie Yeung had a powerful impact on them. 0:41

Canada Reads 2019 has just begun and competition is already heating up on Day Two of the annual battle of the books. The five panellists returned to the table to fight for the one book all of Canada should read.

On Day Two, panellists were asked how effective the writing was at immersing readers in an unfamiliar setting. Joe Zee, who became a free agent when the book he was defending was voted off on the first day of debates, said that the Syria-based memoir Homes by teenage refugee Abu Bakr al Rabeeah with Winnie Yeung did this beautifully.

"We think all refugees just want to leave and get here. But in this story, it was very clear that when [Abu Bakr] got to Canada, he missed Syria. I saw the beauty of Syria, not the war of Syria, in this book," he explained.

Chuck Comeau is defending Homes. He talked about how moving the book was when sharing the pain that al Rabeeah felt when he had to leave friends and family behind amidst civil war.

"You see the fear and pain when they leave, when he gives a last embrace to his friends and cousins [and says], 'I might never see you again,'" said Comeau.

"Then he gets on the plane for the first time. They're praying the whole flight because they've never been on a plane... and then they land and see the snow and it's all white and the cold — they feel it in their bones. This is the stuff we take for granted."