Homes: A Refugee Story

by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah with Winnie Yeung

May 1, 2018
4.5 x 7, paper, 220 pages
978-1-988298-28-3
CDN/US $19.95

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Interview for classroom use

Interview for book clubs

Finalist for the 2018 Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction

Read an interview with Abu Bakr al Rabeeah
Read an interview with Winnie Yeung

One boy’s true story, both heartbreaking and hopeful, of living through the Syrian civil war and immigrating to Canada.

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.

Advance praise for Homes

“From a safe distance, the violence of the Syrian civil war is too vast and grotesque to grasp. How does one comprehend the deaths of 500,000 people, after all? Homes grants readers an intimate view of the war through the eyes of a ten-year-old boy as he struggles to play, pray, and survive as his world collapses around him. Homes stands as one of those rare books that manages to find humanity in the inhumane and, in the end, says more about love than war.”
— Marcello di Cintio, winner of the Shaughnessy Cohen Award for Political Writing for Walls: Travels Along the Barricades

“This charming and warm-hearted book is a refugee story like no other. A captivating read.”
— Deborah Campbell, winner of the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Award for Non-Fiction for A Disappearance in Damascus

“Abu Bakr al Rabeeah is brave, his family are brave, and Homes is a compelling, honest chronicle of one harrowing journey across collapsing nation-states. Winnie Yeung does a fine job bringing out the humanity in this — and by extension, every other — refugee tale.”
— Charles Foran, author of Mordecai: The Life and Times

Reviews and interviews

“‘What’s going on?’ Edmonton teen in shock after Governor-General’s nomination for his Syrian refugee memoir” — Edmonton Journal, October 3, 2018.

“[I]t’s a remarkable thing to hear a refugee story from a Syrian point of view . . . Bakr (and Yeung) are so generous in sharing the journey.” — Pickle Me This, June 26, 2018.

“This unadorned true account of a young boy’s journey from childhood and relative safety in his native land through its disintegration and his dangerous journey to eventual safety in Canada is as remarkable as the story of how it came to be told.” — Resource Links, Volume 23, Number 5, June 2008.

“In the midst of the horror, al Rabeeah’s tale also brims with humour and heart, balancing the unspeakable violence with the hallmarks of many childhoods: soccer games with friends, kite-flying with his cousins, and playing video games. His family is his lifeline, particularly the quiet bravery of his father, who emerges in this book as a hero.” — Quill and Quire starred review, June 2018

“Teenage Syrian refugee teams up with Edmonton teacher to tell his story in new book.” — The Star Edmonton, May 12, 2018.

“The Syrian boy who wrote his life story — with the help of his Canadian teacher.” — The Guardian, May 12, 2018.

“Besides the terrific prose and its more harrowing details, what really makes the 220-page book special is its fully realized portrait of normal, everyday Syria slowly being chipped away at by numerous interests wrestling for power.” — Edmonton Journal, May 10, 2018.

Essay by Winnie Yeung in Quill and Quire, May 2018. [subscription required]

“In just over 200 pages, Homes fast tracks you through four years of al Rabeeah’s youth; and it’s not a story of war, but of a boy who lives in it… Based in a war zone with many astonishing images and gruesome details, Homes is filled with small moments, ones that are real without being extravagant.” What’s Up Yukon, May 2, 2018.

“[Bakr] wants people to know that their family is not defined by war. He had a traumatic childhood, but also a happy one. He witnessed car bombs, but he loved to play soccer. He had to start over again in a new country, but he has his family and his future.” Consumed by Ink, April 24, 2018.

“In Yeung’s skilled hands, this memoir comes to life with immediacy, detail, and sensitivity . . . At a time when many refugee children and families are settling in all parts of Canada, Abu Bakr’s story will build empathy and understanding. Homes: A Refugee Story illuminates the efforts of children and families to live normal, peaceful lives in the midst of warfare and terrorism. For non Muslim readers, it depicts a boy and his extended family’s experience and practice of a faith tradition that is poorly understood by many in the western hemisphere and Europe. Highly recommended.” CM: Canadian Review of Materials, March 23, 2018.

“Edmonton teacher helps refugee tell his story,” CBC News Edmonton.

“Refugee student, Edmonton teacher find a novel in his experience fleeing Iraq and Syria,” National Post.

“Edmonton teacher tells her refugee student’s story in Homes,” Edmonton Journal.