Books·Canada Reads 2019

The Boy on the Beach by Tima Kurdi

Tima Kurdi recounts her journey from Syria to Canada and how it felt to see her home country spiral into civil war.
Tima Kurdi is a spokesperson and the co-founder of the Kurdi Foundation. (Simon & Schuster Canada/Maxine Bulloch)

The Boy on the Beach 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 The Boy on the Beach

An intimate and poignant memoir about the family of Alan Kurdi — the young Syrian boy who became the global emblem for the desperate plight of millions of Syrian refugees — and of the many extraordinary journeys the Kurdis have taken, spanning countries and continents.

Alan Kurdi's body washed up on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea on Sept. 2, 2015, and overnight, the political became personal, as the world awoke to the reality of the Syrian refugee crisis. Tima Kurdi first saw the shocking photo of her nephew in her home in Vancouver. But Tima did not need a photo to understand the truth — she and her family had already been living it.

In The Boy on the Beach, Tima recounts her idyllic childhood in Syria, where she grew up with her brother Abdullah and other siblings in a tight‑knit family. A strong‑willed, independent woman, Tima studied to be a hairdresser and had dreams of seeing the world. At 22, she emigrated to Canada, but much of her family remained in Damascus. Life as a single mother and immigrant in a new country wasn't always easy, and Tima recounts with heart‑wrenching honesty the anguish of being torn between a new home and the world she'd left behind.

As Tima struggled to adapt to life in a new land, war overtook her homeland. Caught in the crosshairs of civil war, her family risked everything and fled their homes. Tima worked tirelessly to help them find safety, but their journey was far from easy. Although thwarted by politics, hounded by violence, and separated by vast distances, the Kurdis encountered setbacks at every turn, they never gave up hope. And when tragedy struck, Tima suddenly found herself thrust onto the world stage as an advocate for refugees everywhere, a role for which she had never prepared but that allowed her to give voice to those who didn't have an opportunity to speak for themselves.

From the jasmine‑scented neighbourhoods of Damascus before the war to the streets of Aleppo during it, to the refugee camps of Europe and the leafy suburbs of Vancouver, The Boy on the Beach is one family's story of love, loss and the persistent search for safe harbour in a devastating time of war. (From Simon & Schuster)

Why Tima Kurdi wrote The Boy on the Beach

"The photo of my nephew Alan Kurdi — the boy on the beach — touched millions of people around the world. I wrote this book because I wanted people to know who my nephew really was — what his name was, and how old he was at the time of his passing. I wanted to show people, especially in the Western world, what my country is actually like — and that we are people, just like everybody else. We have families, just like everyone else, and my people have been forced to leave their home because of war and not by choice. I want the world to constantly be reminded, in their hearts, of that image to inspire them and work to help others.

I want the world to constantly be reminded, in their hearts, of that image to inspire them and work to help others.- Tima Kurdi

"Writing this book was a long process and a struggle to complete. But I wrote it from my heart — it was an opportunity to reflect back on the happy times in our lives, as a people and as a country. Writing things down gave me much hope and helped with the healing process. It helped me cope."

Read more in Tima Kurdi's interview with CBC Books.

From the book

It was impossible not to worry. Each time Abdullah texted, "We're leaving tonight," I held my breath. There is an eight-hour time difference between Turkey and my home in Vancouver, Canada, and I got into the habit of going to sleep early so that I could wake up before dawn to check my cellphone. But my husband had to keep regular working hours, and so, to preserve his sanity, I left my cellphone in the kitchen every night. Every morning, the butterflies knocking in my stomach would wake me up, and I would rush to the kitchen for my phone. Every day for a month, each time that phone made a peep, my heart threw a fit.

From The Boy on the Beach by Tima Kurdi ©2018. Published by Simon & Schuster Canada.

Interviews with Tima Kurdi

Featured VideoTima Kurdi is the aunt of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy whose body washed up on the shore in Turkey yesterday. His older brother and his mother also drowned. His father survived. She says he tried to save them, but failed.

Alan Kurdi's family opens hair salon in Canada

8 years ago
Duration 2:12
Featured VideoFamily and friends celebrate salon opening, while strangers drop by to offer congratulations

Kurdi family set to reunite

8 years ago
Duration 5:27
Featured VideoTima Kurdi, the aunt of drowned Syrian boy Alan Kurdi, talks about sponsoring her brother Mohammad, his wife and five children to a new life in Canada

Alan Kurdi personifies desperation, tragedy in Syria

8 years ago
Duration 4:09
Featured VideoAunt of Syrian boy whose body washed up on a Turkish beach says the family was trying to get to Canada

More about the Kurdi family

Alan Kurdi's cousins adjust to life in Canada

8 years ago
Duration 3:29
Featured VideoTima Kurdi's nieces and nephews are going to school and learning English in Coquitlam, B.C.

Tima Kurdi welcomes her family to Vancouver

8 years ago
Duration 2:54
Featured VideoLanding in Vancouver are relatives of the Syrian family that made headlines around the world after a tragic attempt to escape from their war-torn home country