by Abu Bakr Al Rabeeah With Winnie Yeung

Overview: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.

Deanna Boe (07/04/19): This is an outstanding book! It should be required reading for all young people in our schools (and naturally adults) since it so accurately portrays the lives of refugees and why they might be fleeing their countries. In this case we have a young boy who tells of his life and his familyís lives in Iraq and then Syria before they are finally taken in by Canada as refugees. The young lady who helped him write his story is an English Language Arts teacher in Edmonton, Canada, where they now live.

Everyone living in the US today is here because our ancestors were refugees with the exception of the Native Americans. It makes you pause and wonder just what their lives were like to leave everything behind and go to a country they probably knew nothing about, and most likely had little money to get them established. I know it is true of my ancestors. This book makes you realize why families are willing to risk all they have to leave their homes and go to a country sight unseen in hopes of a better life.

What can be the reasons behind such a drastic move? They can be: financial, better opportunities, to get away from religious/ racial persecution, war or simply for adventure. In this case, you could say all of these applied to this family, but what really stands out is war caused by religious reasons. This family is Muslim who first fled Iraq because of religious discrimination. How can that be? Isnít Iraq a Muslim country? Until I lived in Iran I had never heard of the two major factions of the Muslim faith i.e. Shiía and Sunni. The majority of the people in Iraq are Sunni Muslimís who basically hated the Shiía, whereas the majority of the Muslims in Iran are Shiía and thus the reason these two countries have historically not gotten along. Abuís family was Shiía, but they practiced Sunni which caused additional problems. When Abuís family moved to Syria war had not started there, but it didnít take long for them to be caught up in that conflict and all the problems it brought with it.

Abu is a typical young boy who didnít like school, liked to compete in soccer with his friends, amazingly enough, playing the same typical games on his computer that young people were amusing themselves with here in the US. He didnít want to leave his friends in Iraq, and especially those in Syria. He was the second son out of three, and had five sisters. His father applied for refugee status through the UN before they left Iraq, it would take five years. As war progressed in Syria their lives became desperate and they were worried they would never be granted refugee status. When you hear regular bombings, authorities knocking of your doors demanding to see your papers and food shortages you soon realize that the life you had visualized living in that country is not going to happen. They couldnít go back to Iraq, they feared for their lives in Syria and the UN kept stopping the refugee program, now what?

After five years of waiting the UN finally came through for their family of ten. Canada had accepted them as refugees! It tells of their packing, each family member only allowed two suitcases. Saying good-bye to their relatives and friends was difficult. The depiction of their first airplane flights, but even more so, the portrayal of Abuís first days in his new school. All of this told so perfectly that we can actually feel his emotions and insights into how his life had been and how it would be now. This is a story to remember when you see refugees and should help us to remember to be thankful for what we have because our ancestors took a chance and came to America.
Rating: *****

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