Homes: A Refugee Story

Homes A Refugee StoryHomes: A Refugee Story by Abu Bakr al Rebeeah and Winnie Yeung

Genre: memoir

Setting: mostly Homs, Syria

I read it as a(n): paperback

Source: my own collection

Length: 217 pp

Published by: Freehand Books (1 May 2018)

Her Grace’s rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Abu Bakr al Rabeeah was born in Iraq. His family moved to Syria when he was nine in the hopes of escaping the escalating violence in Iraq. Of course, that was right around the time the Syrian was getting started, so Bakr and his family essentially leapt from the frying pan into the fire. 

As he grew up in a country sundered by war, Bakr and his friends found small joys and ways to be happy. Playing soccer or video games were evergreen favorite pastimes, and he loved learning more about his faith and attending services in his nearby mosque. As the violence in their city of Homs grew worse, Bakr learned, along with everyone else, to avoid the soldiers who would randomly stop citizens, never to go anywhere without his documentation proving who he was, and what to do if there was gunfire or a bomb explosion. Eventually, Bakr and his family gain a highly coveted spot in the UNHCR refugee program and were relocated to Canada, where they all had to learn an entirely new way of life.

My summary probably makes this book sound boring AF, but it was definitely not. It was beautifully written, almost poetic in parts, and packed in a ton of detail and information is such a slim book. It also really highlighted a lot of things I think more people, Americans in particular, need to learn about. 

For one thing, it is absolutely horrifying what humans can become accustomed to. When Bakr first arrived in Canada, one of the things he had the hardest time adjusting to was how quiet it was. He said there wasn’t a constant background noise of gunfire, explosions, screaming. When a bomb had gone off near his home, the community ran towards it to try to help because they knew the ambulances would be a long time coming, if they came at all. A couple days afterward, Bakr and his friends came home from playing soccer and saw that the site of the explosion still had a lot of blood and body parts. They sighed and went and got buckets and things to clean it up with, and other neighbors came out to help. I cannot imagine a child (he was only about 10 at the time) seeing something that awful in the first place, let alone having to help clean it up, gather body parts to take to the authorities, or be in any way involved. It is heartbreaking to know that this is the reality for so many people.

Another thing that is important was Bakr’s relationship with Islam. I think there are still far too many people who assume Muslims are terrorists. That is ridiculous; it would be like assuming all Christians are members of the KKK. It was really nice to read how Bakr’s parents raised and taught their children always to love people, even if they were not kind, because that is what they believed Islam is. Bakr loved the peace his faith brought to him. His father taught him that extremists and the soldiers who were fighting and hurting innocent people were not Muslim because they were acting in ways contrary to the teachings of the Quran. I’m atheist so religious devotion of any kind is utterly baffling to me. However, I have tried to educate myself about a variety of religions and it seems that there are crazies on all sides but the vast majority of people are just normal, peaceful folk who wouldn’t hurt anyone and who just want a safe world for their children. I really don’t know what’s so hard to figure out about that. I think everyone who has children must want a safe world for them. 

I definitely recommend this as a fast, easy read dealing with difficult topics.

#NotYourPrincess

#NotYourPrincess cover#NotYourPrincess edited by Lisa Charleyboy (Twitter, Insta) and Mary Beth Leatherdale (website, Twitter)

Her Grace’s rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: nonfiction, women’s voices

I read it as a: hardback

Source: library

Length: 109 pp

Published by: Annick Press (12 Sept 2017)

A collection of poetry, essays, art, and songs by Native American women, this slim book contains multitudes. Some of the entries look into the past, into abuses and humiliations the creators or their family endured, and some look forward into a more hopeful future. A nicely eclectic collection.

I like the glimpse into the experiences of American Indian/First Nations women. It is horrifying how badly they have been treated and difficult to read. But I think the best way to learn more and educate myself about things I have no experience with is by reading the experiences of those who have gone through it. It sounds trite to write it out like that, but it is a fundamental part of how I read now; I do not know the experiences of Indigenous women or Black women, and I can’t really understand what it is like to experience the racism or fear or humiliation that so many of them have endured. Reading about it in their own words is the best way to learn.

I liked how varied this compilation was. However, I found the actual format to be off-putting. It is a physically huge book, like a giant magazine or something, and is impossible to stuff into a purse. If I were a student wearing a large backpack everyday, that would be one thing. But the dimensions of this were 9×11.5 inches and it’s just…big. Also, while the individual contributions were all excellent, the book as a whole didn’t feel like it had a proper flow to it to blend and merge from one section to the next very easily. It actually felt somewhat incomplete, as though there were pieces missing from each section as well as from the overall book. It sadly makes me a little hesitant to pick up another book edited by Charleyboy. 

I would give it 3 stars in honor of the women who contributed to it, but the book itself as a whole would probably only get 2. 

Favorite part/ lines (potential spoilers!):

  • Patriarchy is quite simply the systematic oppression and regulation of women’s bodies, minds, and spirits. … In Indigenous culture, Indigenous women and girls are sacred, known as life-givers, as independent, as autonomous, as decision-makers. (“Reclaiming Indigenous Women’s Rights”, Nahanni Fontaine (Anishinaabe), p 25)
  • “I rather you be terrified than think,” she warns, “that you can beat the wrath of Mother Nature.” (“Falling,” Natanya Ann Pulley (Navajo), p 36)
  • You are allowed to cry/ You are allowed to scream/ But you are not allowed to give up./ If you ever need a hero/ Become one. (“Dear Past Self”, Isabella Fillspipe (Oglala Lakota), p 98-99)

 

Wishful Drinking

9857108Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

Her Grace’s rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars

Genre: memoir

I read it as an: audiobook

Narrator: Carrie Fisher

Source: public library

Length: 03:06:00

Published by: S&S (1 Jan 2009)

Carrie Fisher reads one of her memoirs, focusing on her various addictions and bipolar disorder. For as sad as much of the book was, she managed to make it hilarious. I actually didn’t care for her narration as much as I thought I would, given how much I enjoy Fisher’s various performances. But still, this is a great insight into one of Hollywood’s own. 

I read this in part because I wanted to, I still miss my General, and because it ticks a box for Read Harder. I definitely recommend it for anyone who is a fan of Carrie Fisher.

10% Happier

1850579610% Happier by Dan Harris

I read it as an: audiobook

Narrator: Dan Harris

Source: My own collection

Length: 07:50:00

Publisher: HarperAudio

Year: 2014

Dan Harris, the anchorman for Good Morning America, had a panic attack on national live TV and decided then and there that he might need to consider making some changes. Perhaps not doing cocaine anymore was one change. Learning about mindfulness and meditation was another. However, like me, Harris is a super skeptic and he gave meditation a hard side-eye. Eventually, he came around and realized that it is actually a thing that works, and which has scientific studies to back it up, and was able to get his shit together.

This was an ok book. I don’t know that I find Harris an interesting enough person in and of himself to have had a burning desire to listen to this. I got it when it was an Audible daily deal and it was the next in my queue. He really is kind of a dick, though good on him for trying not to be a dick so much anymore. I do really like his concept of how meditation makes him just 10% happier. I think that’s a really important point to make. Meditation (or medication, or religion, or shopping, or whatever you want) really isn’t a cure-all for anything in life, and it’s up to each individual how we choose to respond to a thing. You can’t expect something to make you purely happy, nor should you go looking for such a thing. To do so will surely make you 100% miserable. I think that’s something a lot of folks still need to figure out.

Overall, this was an all right book. I’m glad I had the time to listen to it mostly in one go because I didn’t think it was that interesting and I might have DNF’d it if I had had to listen to it over several days.

The Astronaut Wives Club

What can I say? Who doesn’t love learning about astronauts, even if it’s in a behind the scenes kind of way? It’s awesome to think that the processor in my phone is more powerful than the computer that landed men on the moon. Learning about the trials and tribulations the first men in space faced is fascinating. It’s too bad this book doesn’t discuss anything of the sort.Read More »