If You Liked x, Read y: Leaving Home Edition

Sharon Bala’s The Boat People, a novel inspired by the 500 Sri Lankan refugees held in detention in Canada, was heavy on the awards-radar this year for good reason. Today Publisher Kelsey Attard of Freehand Books shares the parallels between Bala’s novel and the newly published Homes: A Refugee Story by Winnie Yeung.  


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Sharon Bala’s debut novel The Boat People has been everywhere this year – it’s a Globe and Mail bestseller, was a contender for Canada Reads, and was a finalist for the Amazon Canada First Novel Award. Inspired by true events, it follows the story of 500 refugees from Sri Lanka who arrive in Vancouver, hoping to seek asylum in Canada. Instead, they are held in detention, as government and media reports circulate that among “the boat people” are terrorists who pose a security threat to Canada.

The Boat People alternates points of view between one of the refugees named Mahindan, his lawyer, and the adjudicator assigned to decide his case – whether he will be deported or not. BookPage notes that The Boat People “reminds us of the fragile nature of truth.” It’s a book that makes us reconsider our own biases and opens us up to a variety of alternate viewpoints – the Globe and Mail says that “what we also get from a novel like this is a new way of seeing.”

Readers who were intrigued by the story of the refugees in The Boat People should take a look at Homes: A Refugee Story, written by Winnie Yeung, which tells the story of Abu Bakr al Rabeeah. Abu Bakr, currently a high school student in Edmonton, lived in Homs, Syria, during the civil war and was ultimately able to immigrate with his parents and siblings to Canada.

Unlike Mahindan and the “boat people,” Homes‘s, Abu Bakr and his family arrived in Canada with the assistance of the UN – itself a multi-year journey to get all the paperwork in order and undergo the many steps in the immigration process. But their experience demonstrates that even when you are not facing the threat of deportation, the refugee experience is a rocky one, fraught with pitfalls.

Homes reveals the loneliness of arriving in a strange new country, leaving everything and everyone you love behind. Sitting in his new school in Canada, with “thanks” as the only word of English he knows, Abu Bakr thinks:

“I realized that I wanted Syria because Homs was still home to me. In my twenty-six days in Canada, I had not heard or seen a single bomb. There was no fighting, no war. I was glad to be here, to be safe. Some kind of impossible knot inside me had released but now, I was just a different kind of afraid.”

Like The Boat People, Homes is a book that opens our minds to new ways of seeing things. Librarian and author Rosemary Griebel says that “I have never before read a book that so clearly brought home the experience of living in Syria or being a refugee. [Homes] is amazing.”

Thank you to Consumed by Ink for first drawing the parallels between Homes: A Refugee Story and The Boat People!

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Thanks to Kelsey at Freehand for sharing Homes as a follow-up read to The Boat People. For more books like other books, click here.