Canada Reads 2019

Homes by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah & Winnie Yeung

Home is a nonfiction book by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah & Winnie Yeung.
Homes is a memoir by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah and Winnie Yeung. (Samuel Sir/Freehand Books/Heiko Ryll)

Homes is on the Canada Reads 2019 longlistCanada Reads 2019 is about finding 'one book to move you.' The final five books and the panellists defending them will be revealed on Jan. 31, 2019.

The 2019 debates will take place March 25-28, 2019 and will be hosted by Ali Hassan

About Homes

In 2010, the al Rabeeah family left their home in Iraq in hope of a safer life. They moved to Homs, in Syria — just before the Syrian civil war broke out.

Abu Bakr, one of eight children, was 10 years old when the violence began on the streets around him: car bombings, attacks on his mosque and school, firebombs late at night. Homes tells of the strange juxtapositions of growing up in a war zone: horrific, unimaginable events punctuated by normalcy — soccer, cousins, video games, friends.

Homes is the remarkable true story of how a young boy emerged from a war zone — and found safety in Canada — with a passion for sharing his story and telling the world what is truly happening in Syria. As told to her by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah, writer Winnie Yeung has crafted a heartbreaking, hopeful and urgently necessary book that provides a window into understanding Syria. (From Freehand Books)

Homes was a finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction.

Collaborating on Homes

Abu Bakr al Rabeeah: "[Sharing my stories] was a great experience. Nothing was really hard for me. It wasn't like reliving hard times or hard memories. It was just telling about my past. I was so proud of it. By telling stories to Ms. Yeung, I learned a lot of stuff that happened to me that I didn't realize. For example, not being able to go out for soccer or with friends — that taught me how to be a patient person. Not having things I wanted because of the circumstances, that taught me to enjoy the small things I had."

The book isn't just about the war. The book is about family.- co-author Winnie  Yeung

Winnie Yeung: "The book isn't just about the war. The book is about family. What I was so inspired by is how this family held together, their resiliency. That's what I wanted to highlight was love and this sense of togetherness that I was so touched by."

Abu Bakr al Rabeeah: "I hope readers [walk away] knowing how similar we are, how we have the same things, even though we are from countries far apart. When I first came to school [in Canada], some of my friends asked me, 'Do you guys have chairs back in Syria? Do you have schools?' These kinds of question led me to telling my story. The other thing [I hope people learn from the book] is that, yes we went through a lot of bad stuff, a lot of problems. But we still had a good life there. There are still people who are happy living in Syria."

Read more from Abu Bakr al Rabeeah and Winnie Yeung's interview with CBC Books.

From the book

Every Friday on the way home from the noon prayer service, Salat al Jum'ahFather stopped to buy fresh fruit from the street vendors. Our mosque was barely a block from our apartment and the walk home was always a loud, lively time, with neighbours and friends catching up at the end of the week. On the day of Father's birthday, April 18, he bought fruit for the family as usual but rather than lingering to chat, he hurried home. All morning, the fighter jets had screamed by. In the weeks before, every mosque in our neighbourhood, Akrama, had been attacked. Father texted me to go straight home after the service.

From Homes by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah and Winnie Yeung ©2018. Published by Freehand Books.


Winnie didn't imagine at first that she would write a novel based on Syrian refugee Abu Bakr al-Rabeeah's life, but that's exactly what happened. Homes, a novel based on her student's story, has topped the bestseller list in Edmonton. 13:22