Homes: A Refugee Storyby Published 10 Apr 2018
|Homes: A Refugee Story.pdf|
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 ten 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.
"Homes: A Refugee Story" Reviews
This is not a book. This is an achievement.
For every person who doesn't understand the global refugee crisis or the hate that drives policies to close borders, this book is an eye-opener.
For every person that has survived war and is trying to find a safe home for their children, this is a book of hope.
For every person from Edmonton who lives overseas as an English teacher, this story will bring tears of pride to your eyes. Because Canada knows our responsibility to accept people running from horrible circumstances. Also, we have amazing, dedicated teachers who makes dreams come true.
Bakr's story has the potential to be the next great textbook. It is not fiction like Animal Farm. It is not fantasy like Lord of the Rings. It is autobiographical in the vein of Anne Frank or Malala Yousafzai. It is story of escape, and the world must always strive to create places not just to escape to, but to eliminate the need to escape from a place at all.
Perhaps in the future, everywhere on earth can be home.
Homes is the story of Abu Bakr al Rabeeah, as told to Winnie Yeung, about his family’s life in both Iraq and Syria before moving to Canada as refugees in 2015.
For as long as I can remember, there has always been some sort of conflict ongoing in the Middle East. Despite seeing it on the news regularly, I would say that I was pretty apathetic to it all. That isn’t to say that I didn’t understand the tragic nature of an endless war, but it’s difficult to comprehend the enormity of it all. Abu Bakr’s Homes puts a face and a family to the horrors of daily life halfway around the world.
The story begins in Iraq where the Al Rabeeah family spends their days dodging the constant threat of violence as death seemingly lurks around every corner. Finally, fed up with a life lived in fear, the family moves to the town of Homs in Syria. Unfortunately, this is just prior to the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War. In an effort to find peace, they leave Homs for Damascus where the violence will again follow them.
This is an especially heartbreaking read because the author witnessed all of this horror before even reaching fifteen. There are many moments where the family needs to keep quiet and hunker down when hearing explosions and the staccato beat of automatic gunfire outside their home. A few moments later, when the noise ceases, Abu Bakr and his cousins would boot up their PlayStation to play some soccer. It’s something I just can’t imagine dealing with during my childhood – or even now for that matter.
Like Max Eisen’s By Chance Alone, books like Homes are more important now than ever. In an age where people are more egotistical, self-obsessed and apathetic, books like Homes are sorely needed, if only for people to develop a sense of empathy for those looking for understanding and a helping hand.
A quick read to get a taste of the refugee experience. al Rabeeah and his teacher were astute to take on this project, to document what happened to him, and to help the rest of us even begin to understand it. It has a YA feel, and as others have said, would be a great start for a younger crowd on the topic of international war and being a refugee.
Another reminder that it might well be true that Canada is the greatest country in the world. Even with its winters.
“How could the God of my gentle father be the same God of those crazy fanatics who killed in the name of Islam? I hated those people the most. How could they take something so loving and peaceful and twist it to justify violence and murder? Those people cannot really be Muslim because my God was about love, peace, charity.”
Stories like this are so necessary, especially as anti-immigrant sentiments are on the rise in Canada and other countries. The al Rabeeah family only wants what all refugee/immigrant families want: safety and the possibility of a better future. Homes: A Refugee Story is the story of the al Rabeeah family, as told by one of their eight children, Abu Bakr. He was only ten years old when violence erupted around him, and Homes follows his family through their move from Iraq, to Syria, and eventually to Canada. He witnessed unimaginable horror in the form of car/suicide bombings, attacks and massacres in the streets, at his school, in his mosque, checkpoints manned by power-hungry “soldiers,” firebombs and more. Perhaps most striking though, was the way that events of war were contrasted with the normalcy of growing up. For example, I was deeply saddened by the following recollection: “Clutching the garbage bag, I headed towards the park down the street. There, beneath a tree, just a month after my thirteenth birthday, I buried a man’s jawbone.” This was followed, one page later, with memories of “…the honey-drenched baklava my aunts gave me, the pinches on my cheeks, affectionate tickles under my chin, and the coos of laughter…” and Bakr frequently discusses his childhood spent with his cousins and friends, playing soccer and video games. Homes is an account of adapting to and growing up in a war zone, where even the sound of machine guns eventually fades into the background.
When saying goodbye to his cousins and friends, Bakr promises them that he will tell his story. And he does, with the help of his English as a Second Language teacher, Winnie Yeung, who listened to his experiences and wrote the book that I hold today. The story is simply told, and I think Yeung did a great job of capturing Bakr’s voice and experience. The voice of a teenager is unique for this type of memoir and made it even more moving, but on the other hand, I almost wish that Bakr waited to tell his story until he could write more of it himself, and until he could reflect more fully on the events. For example, by the end of the book, the family is still relatively new to Canada, with the following quote illustrating one aspect of their difficult adjustment process: “It was a relief to be in a place free of the shabiha and snipers, but none of us had ever imagined the solitude we would face. We had traded the raucous, tearing war for a suffocating, quiet safety. No one could tell which was better, which was worse. It was both and neither.” It would have been nice to see more of their time in Canada, and I hope to be able to hear more about the family in the coming years. I am invested in their story and wellbeing.
It is impossible to read this book without empathizing with the family’s fear and distress. Homes is a fantastic read for adults and young adults alike – it is accessible, educational, and thought-provoking, and it provides a very human face to refugees who are often dehumanized by certain world leaders.
Homes makes one think about how lucky we are to be Canadian. I cannot imagine sending my children off to school and having to worry about snipers or suicide bombers. This memoir is told by Bakr, reflecting on his life in Iraq and Syria. He shared the dichotomy of the violence and massacres with the hustle and bustle of a loving, close knit family full of siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles. He shares the perspective of a young boy coming to terms with leaving his country, his family, his friends and being thrown into a Canadian winter, attending school and having to learn to speak English.
Bakr and this memoir are remarkable examples of resilience, strength and bravery, leaving turmoil and coming to Canada for a better life. I am in awe of the strength of his parents!
This will be a great book to discuss at Canada Reads!!