Review of Homes in Resource Links

Resource Links, Canada’s national journal devoted to the review and evaluation of Canadian English and French resources for children and young adults, has reviewed Homes: A Refugee Story by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah and Winnie Yeung, rating it an “E” — “excellent, enduring, everyone should see it!”

“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.”

You can see the full review in the June 2018 issue (Vol. 23, No. 5) of Resource Links.


Interview with Ali Bryan (The Figgs) in Prairie books NOW

The Spring/Summer 2018 issue of Prairie books NOW features an interview with Ali Bryan, author of The Figgs. Ali discusses the real-life inspiration for the Figgs’ family crest (three birds without wings), researching adoption, and writing humour:

“The humour is hands down the easiest and most enjoyable part of my writing process. It feels the most natural. If it feels even the slightest like I was trying to be funny, it won’t be funny. So many times I’ve done a reading and I get to a part that I find particularly amusing and no one will even crack a smile, and then I’ll read another passage that I don’t even think is funny, and people are laugh-crying. It’s the best part of what I do.”


Ali Bryan named a 2018 Alberta Emerging Artist

Freehand’s own Ali Bryan (Roost, The Figgs) was named today one of ten recipients of the 2018 Emerging Artist Awards, presented by the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Awards Foundation. Congratulations, Ali! For more information about Ali and the award, please see her profile on the Arts Awards website.

Foundation Chair Ken Regan says “We are so pleased to be able to invest in advancing the careers of these outstanding young artists who truly will make a difference across Alberta – and Canada.”

  • Ali Bryan, writer, Calgary
  • Emily Marisabel, theatre artist, Claresholm (Edmonton)
  • Brett Dahl, theater artists, Calgary
  • Lizzie Derksen, writer, Edmonton
  • Pamma FitzGerald, visual artist, Calgary
  • Jared Darcy Tailfeathers, multidisciplinary artists, Calgary
  • Jenna K. Rodgers, theatre artist, Calgary
  • Timothy Brennan Steeves, violinist, Strathmore
  • Kelton Stepanowich, filmmaker, Ft. McMurray
  • Roydon Tse, composer, Edmonton (Toronto)

Her Honour, the Honourable Lois E. Mitchell, CM, AOE, LLD, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta presented the medals and awards at a private ceremony at Government House in Edmonton June 1.

The 10 recipients were selected from 147 applications in a two-tiered adjudication process overseen by The Banff Centre. The adjudication panel included: Mark Bellamy, theatre director;  Mel Kirby, manager, Calgary Opera Emerging Artist Development Program; Jane Ash Poitras, visual artist,  Lieutenant Governor of Alberta 2011 Distinguished Artist; Thomas Trofimuk, novelist, poet. 

Contact: Kathy Classen 780-222-7943 kathy.classen@artsawards.ca


Starred review in Quill and Quire for Homes: A Refugee Story

Quill and Quire reviews Homes: A Refugee Story by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah & Winnie Yeung alongside Tina Kurdi’s The Boy on the Beach, giving both starred reviews. Reviewer Sheniz Janmohamed writes that “Both Homes and The Boy on the Beach humanize a conflict that too often been condensed to numbers, statistics, and nameless victims. The western gaze reduces Syria to an abstraction of civil war, hunger, violence, and conflicting political and religious factions. But these books force the reader to face the complexities of place. In addition to war and suffering, Syria is also a home, a locus of family and memory. . . . These eloquent, nuanced, and heartbreaking books — filled with life in the face of death — deserve to be read with all the compassion and courage it must have taken to write them.”

You can read the review online here.


Prairie Fire reviews Lorna Crozier’s What the Soul Doesn’t Want

“Reading Lorna Crozier’s poetry is always a surprise and a delight, and the poet does not disappoint with her latest collection, What the Soul Doesn’t Want. 

“She writes about growing old and the vulnerabilities which accompany aging. She writes about grief, about flies, cockroaches, birds and saints.”

You can read the full review online.


Homes: A Refugee Story in the Star Edmonton

“Al Rabeeah, 17, wants readers to take away one thing: that the two countries he called home before coming to Canada are not all about war.

“It’s really lovely to live in Syria and Iraq,” he said. “People, they are just the same or similar to (people here).”

You can read the full article here.


Homes: A Refugee Story in The Guardian

We were thrilled to see The Guardian cover Homes: A Refugee Story:

“When Abu Bakr al-Rabeeah and his family arrived from Syria to the Canadian city of Edmonton, his to-do list was dauntingly long: English lessons, learning how to cope with the long, bitterly cold winters and how to best get around his strange new home.

“But the teenager had a secret dream, which he confided to a teacher. One day he would tell his story, challenging those who saw his family only as refugees, defined by the war they had survived.”

You can read the article here.


Essay by Winnie Yeung in Quill and Quire

Winnie Yeung has an essay in this month’s issue of Quill and Quire, about the challenges and rewards of writing someone else’s story:

I am not a writer by profession, but literature is my passion. I teach English language arts and ESL in an Edmonton junior high school. Usually, when I ask my students to write about their lives, even just their summer vacations, I’m met with whining. “I don’t know what to write!” So I was delighted when, one day in my office, a Grade 9 student named Abu Bakr al Rabeeah, who had fled the civil war in Syria, shared his secret wish: “I want to tell my story.”

You can read the full essay here (subscription required).


Edmonton Journal article and video

Abu Bakr al Rabeeah and Winnie Yeung talked to Fish Griwkowsky at the Edmonton Journal about Homes: A Refugee Story.

“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.

“One of the book’s great strengths is the on-the-streets feeling in Syria — kids playing soccer one moment, avoiding unknown peril sneaking through familiar alleys to avoid dangerous checkpoints the next.

“…’Don’t take me so seriously because I am a refugee and a Muslim — joke with me, laugh with me’ [al Rabeeah says].”

You can read the full article here.

In addition to the article, the Edmonton Journal has created a moving video interview with Abu Bakr al Rabeeah and Winnie Yeung, who wrote Homes: A Refugee Story, about Abu Bakr’s desire to share his story: what it was really like growing up in Syria during the civil war.



Ali Bryan on the CBC Homestretch

Ali Bryan dropped by the CBC studios to chat with Doug Dirks about her latest book, The Figgs. They talked about the relatable scenario of adult kids living at home, the tough situation millennials and those currently entering the workforce find themselves in, and why writing at 5:00 am is especially good for humour. You can listen to their discussion here (6 minutes, 41 seconds).