Refugee Boy Memoir Wins Alberta Book Publishing Award

A memoir by a teenage refugee boy’s life in war-torn Syria and Iraq, where he escaped to Canada, has won the nonfiction 2019 Alberta Book Publishing Award, CBC reported.

In the memoir Homes, 15-year-old Abu Bakr al Rabeeah recounts what it was like to spend his childhood in the middle of a civil war.

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Homes is co-written by al Rabeeah and his teacher Winnie Yeung, both based in Edmonton.  He and his family have lived in Edmonton, Alberta since 2014.

The book was self-published in 2016, before being picked up for commercial republication by Freehand Books in 2018.

In the book, al Rabeeah recalls attacks on his mosque and school, car bombings and firebombs, as well as the love and protection he felt from his large, tight-knit family.

Though he witnessed tremendous violence in Homs, Syria, he was also surrounded by the love of a big, tight-knit family — his parents, two brothers, five sisters, grandmother, several uncles, and aunts.

“When I first came to Edmonton and I didn’t know anyone. And no one knows about me or about my background. When I tell people I am from Iraq and I moved to Syria, most people are like ‘Where is Iraq?’ or ‘Where is Syria?’ or ‘What’s happening over there?’ Most people don’t know the reason I came here. That’s what got my attention,” Al Rabeeah said earlier to CBC.

It was a shortlisted finalist for the Governor General’s Award for English-language non-fiction at the 2018 Governor General’s Awards,[5] and for the 2019 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing.

It was selected for the 2019 edition of Canada Reads, where it was defended by Chuck Comeau.

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