CBC Books has been talking a lot about Homes: A Refugee Story. Here’s a round-up of coverage surrounding the Canada Reads selection:

  • Winnie Yeung and Abu Bakr al Rabeeah will be traveling to Corner Brook, Newfoundland on March 20 to give a talk to The Association of New Canadians and to be interviewed by Bernice Hillier of Newfoundland Morning
  • Highlands School and CBC Radio Edmonton are presenting:
    • a student book club and discussion. Excerpts will be aired on CBC
    • a student art contest and creative writing contest. The winners will be posted on the CBC website
  • Shelagh Rogers interviewed Abu Bakr al Rabeeah and Winnie Yeung on The Next Chapter (Monday, Feb. 11 and Saturday, Feb. 16)
  • Syndicated interviews with Abu Bakr and Winnie on CBC’s afternoon shows across Canada (Tuesday, Feb. 19)
  • Features with the Canada Reads champion for Homes, Chuck Comeau:

Homes: A Refugee Story has been selected as OverDrive’s Big Library Read ebook for April 2019. From April 1–15, patrons of more than 19,000 libraries around the world can borrow, read and discuss the ebook with no waitlists or holds. It is the first Canadian book to be selected for this program.

Homes chronicles the struggles of the al Rabeeah family who left their home in Iraq for Syria in hope of a safer life – 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 juxtaposition of growing up as a typical teenager in a war zone: horrific, unimaginable events punctuated by normalcy – soccer, cousins, video games, friends. Homes is a 2019 Canada Reads contender and 2018 Governor General’s Literary Award finalist for nonfiction. It was chosen for the Big Library Read by a popular vote of readers and librarians worldwide.

“It brings such joy to Abu Bakr and me that his wish of wanting to tell the world of Syria’s plight is being fulfilled in such a far-reaching way,” said Homes author Winnie Yeung. “For this is the magic of books: they don’t just feed our imaginations, they build bridges of understanding. The relationship of sharing, receiving and honoring each other is the true gift of storytelling —something I am so grateful to be a partner in.”

About Big Library Read: OverDrive, the leading library lending platform for ebooks, audiobooks and magazines facilitates this international reading program that simultaneously connects millions of readers around the world. The program began in 2013 and Homes: A Refugee story in the 18th selection. 90 percent of public libraries in North America participate; only a library card from a participating library system is required to take part. Readers can join an online discussion about the book at https://discuss.biglibraryread.com/


Eric Volmers, of the Calgary Herald came to chat with us about current and future books. He writes:

“A self-help book. A very graphic graphic novel. Tales about northern Ontario murders and Toronto urbanites. These are just the latest entries in Freehand’s eclectic catalogue, which over the years has also included poetry, hard-hitting memoirs, experimental short-story collections, historical fiction and even a Giller shortlister. It was announced earlier this week that Abu Bakr al Rabeeah’s memoir, Homes: A Refugee Story, written with Winnie Yeung, has been shortlisted for CBC’s Canada Reads. Historically, landing on that list has proven to be a significant boon for both author and publisher alike and should only strengthen Freehand’s long-standing reputation as a little publisher that punches far above its weight.”

Read the full article here: Independent Calgary Publisher Builds Up Eclectic Successful Catalogue


Homes: A Refugee Story, by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah and Winne Yeung, is a Canada Reads contender and will be defended by Chuck Comeau, drummer from the band, Simple Plan and founder of the Simple Plan Foundation, which is devoted to helping young people in need — from suicide prevention, to poverty, mental health awareness, musical education and drug addiction. The debates will take place between March 25 and 28, 2019

Homes follows the life of the al Rabeeah family, who left their home in Iraq in hopes of a safer life. They moved to Homs, Syria. Abu Bakr, one of eight children, was just ten years old when civil war broke out on the streets around him. Homes is a remarkable true account of growing up in a war zone and ultimately finding safety in Canada, told from Abu Bakr’s perspective. It is a story that he had a deep-seated desire to share with Canadians.

Winnie Yeung has expertly crafted this story, drawing on countless hours of interviews with Abu Bakr and his family. The result is a beautifully-written, eye-opening book that is both heartbreaking and hopeful.  In an interview with CBC books, Yeung reflected on the process of helping to tell the al Rabeeah family’s story: “Listening became the thing that I had to learn how to do…. To be able to just sit back and be quiet and let Abu Bakr tell the story that he needed to…. Now I’m realizing that is the best gift that we can give to anyone who’s going through any kind of trauma, big or small, just to listen.”

This is the second major accolade for Homes since it was published in May, 2018. In October, it was also nominated for a Governor General’s Literary Award for Nonfiction.

Canada Reads is an annual “Battle of Books” that airs on CBC radio and is hosted by Ali Hassan. Taking place at the end of March, it is a week of debates where five Canadian celebrities each champion one book that they think every Canadian should read. Every day, the panellists vote one book out of the debates until there is a single book left standing. The other contenders are:

  • Suzanne by Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, translated by Rhonda Mullins, defended by Yanic Truesdale
  • Brother by David Chariandy, defended by Lisa Ray
  • By Chance Alone by Max Eisen, defended by Ziya Tong
  • The Woo-Woo by Lindsay Wong, defended by Joe Zee


Two Roads Home and Homes on the 49th Shelf‘s Books of the Year Lists

Two Roads Home by Daniel Griffin was on the Fiction List: “It interested me to consider how people can go from peaceful protest to violent acts, so for sure that moral grey zone was important. But for me the answer to why and how a group of smart, educated young people turn to violence took more imagination and soul searching than it did research.” Read Griffin’s conversation with Trevor Corkum here.

Homes: A Refugee Story by Abu Bakr Al Rabeeah and Winnie Yeung was on the Non-Fiction List: “It interested me to consider how people can go from peaceful protest to violent acts, so for sure that moral grey zone was important. But for me the answer to why and how a group of smart, educated young people turn to violence took more imagination and soul searching than it did research.” Read Kerry Clare’s recommendation here.


Keith Maillard’s Twin Studies on the Globe and Mail’s Top 100 Books of 2018 List

“Keith Maillard’s long-awaited new novel opens with an e-mail from twins Jamie and Devon to the Interdisciplinary Twin Studies Program at a Vancouver university. Despite weighing in at 576 pages, it never flags. It turned out to be the perfect length for this story of gender and sexual fluidity and the emergence of one unconventional family.”—Globe and Mail

You can read the full story here.


All of Us In Our Own Lives reviewed in Quill and Quire

“readers… will be sufficiently rewarded with a vibrant picture of Nepal in a novel that has an original and timely take on our globalized world.”—Kerry Clare

You can read the full story here.


All of Us In Our Own Lives featured on All Lit Up

This debut fiction isn’t strictly a first novel for author Manjushree Thapa, but her first time as a Canadian author and her first published by a Canadian indie press. A deeply moving novel about the lives of women and girls in Nepal and the ethics of international aid,  All of Us in Our Own Lives (Freehand Books) gets our readerly attention.

You can read the full story here.


Homes featured on CBC Books

Jane van Koeverden speaks with Winnie Yeung and Abu Bakr al Rabeeah:

“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.” —Abu Bakr al Rabeeah

“The biggest challenge was to tell a story in Abu Bakr’s voice. I thought it would be more immediate and more relatable if it was from the personal point of view. But then I realized, ‘Oh no, I have to write as a 14-year-old Arabic boy.’ That was tough. I knew that by the way Abu Bakr was speaking to me in English that wasn’t his true voice because he was struggling with the language. Though I could still get his spirit and his warmth and his energy that way, I still had some weird requests for him. For example, I would ask him to talk to someone on the phone in Arabic, just to hear what he sounded like in his own mother tongue. From that I could capture his rhythm and put it on the page.” —Winnie Yeung

You can read the full interview here.


Twin Studies reviewed in the Vancouver Sun

Tom Sandborn reviews Keith Maillard’s Twin Studies in the Vancouver Sun:

“[T}his new fiction deepens and extends the fascination with power, gender, death and beauty that has characterized all his earlier work, and it finds the author working at the peak of his considerable talents as he explores the uncanny elements of the twin experience.Twin Studies tells a set of intertwined stories about three sets of twins and their families and friends, lovers and antagonists. It is a work of social realism, ornamented with the closely observed and telling details of costume, make up and consumer goods seen in the author’s earlier work.”

You can read the full review here.