Students in Ms. Hamer’s Grade 10 English class read Homes: A Refugee Story by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah and Winnie Yeung. They also listened to parts of the audiobook, narrated by Ali Momen. This book tells the true story of the al Rabeeah family’s journey from Iraq to Syria, and ultimately, to Canada, and explores the issues of childhood disrupted by war, and the strength and resilience of family in overcoming the effects of displacement.
After finishing the book, students reflected on the impact of the book, how it had deepened their understanding of the experiences of immigrants and refugees, or how it connected to their own life stories. A collection of their thoughts is below.
One of the main reasons this book was written was to build empathy. What parts of Abu Bakr’s journey connect to a life story of your own?
Abu Bakr's story reminds me of my own story of immigration. My family may not have fled from a war-torn country, but nonetheless we came to Canada to seek a home with less danger and violence than our own. I cannot remember life before Canada, for I was too young to have any memories from then. But growing up, I could see how immigration impacted my family. - Isaac
Many parts of Abu Bakr’s journey connect to my own life stories. My family immigrated to Canada from the United Arab Emirates in 2016. When I arrived, I knew how to speak English, so the language barrier wasn’t a problem for me, but I remember feeling like I didn’t belong, and my brain was racing with questions as I started the first day of school. New language, new games, new traditions, it all came at once. Through the differences, I found enjoyment in the things I used to do, similar to Abu Bakr. - Ameer
It seems like many countries and communities are dealing with political controversy over welcoming immigrants and refugees into their society. How has this book affected the way you view this issue?
This book has caused me to realize just how important welcoming refugees into our country can be to families in need of somewhere safe to call home. After reading this book and being able to put myself in the shoes of a refugee family, I’ve realized how lucky Canadians are to live in a country free from war. It's so important for people to have a safe living environment and for children to have a safe place to grow up to become the best versions of themselves. - Addie
Canada is welcoming many people from Afghanistan, and this book changes the way I look at that because we heard about Abu Bakr and all the violence in his country, and how he was brought to safety in Canada. I feel more empathy for refugees because some of them are in all this violence, their life was already hard, then they come to Canada and they have to learn everything from the start again like a new language, and find work. - Owen
Even in Canada, where we claim to have one of the most inclusive and accepting countries, newcomers face many challenges, stereotypes, and lower quality of living because of our social system. When reading Homes: A Refugee Story, I felt my understanding and perspective broaden with knowing a personal account of a refugee who was around my age when he left Syria. When you read the news, you normally only have facts and numbers about immigration issues. However, when you read people’s life stories, you connect to them and are morally affected by what you have read. If Canadians read these types of narratives and truly realized who immigrants and refugees are as people, not just numbers, they would be more open to them, all while stopping negative stereotypes surrounding those newcomers and being more readily accepting. This could spark immense change in our society and allow for less racism, and fewer barriers. - Sophie
How can we help newcomers when they arrive in our communities?
I think it’s really important that we offer services to help people immigrate to Canada, and I think, from what I read in Homes, we should invest more in helping families after they’ve immigrated, and helping them feel more at home. Once Abu Bakr’s family moves to Edmonton, it’s a lot more peaceful, but they don’t feel at home, and it seems kind of lifeless. I really think it’d be cool to be a sponsor family for an immigrant family, because you’d be responsible for helping them feel more at home, and being happy in Canada. - Pierce
Some newcomers have to learn a new language from scratch, and they have to learn that language because they have to get a job to have money for their family. Things that we can do to help newcomers is teach them some games to play like wall ball, or any sport like if they never played hockey or basketball. Help them buy clothes and teach them tricks around the city like how to use money and how to take an Uber. - Jay
I believe that people and the government should pay more attention to the mental health of immigrants and aid them as they try to navigate their strange new worlds. This book has helped me better understand the struggle of immigrants, not only in the long journey to arrive in our country, but also the constant struggle to make lives for themselves here. I believe that communities should make more of an effort to reach out to these immigrants and to help them maneuver through the many challenges in their journeys. - Nola
If you would like to learn more about this book, watch this interview with the authors or view this trailer for the book featured on CBC’s Canada Reads 2019. If you would like to read Homes: A Refugee Story, you’re in luck, because the Nepean library has several copies!
Abu Bakr al Rabeeah and Winnie Yeung (https://i.cbc.ca/1.5045871.1551907508!/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/16x9_780/canada-reads-abu-bakr-al-rabeeah-with-winnie-yeung.jpg)