November 18 and 25: “Homes” book study

In November 2019, the church focused on immigration, migrants and refugees by reading and discussing the 2018 award-winning book “Homes: A Refugee Story.” This work of creative non-fiction by Edmonton teacher Winnie Yeung tells the story of an Edmonton teenager, Abu-Bakr al-Rebeeah. He fled with his family from Iraq to Syria in 2010 and then to Edmonton in 2014.

Three Sunday mornings (November 3, “Seeking refugee”; November 17, “Welcoming strangers,” and November 24, “Becoming and intercultural church”) related the book to biblical passages and to our work as a community of love, learning, justice, and hospitality.

On a related note, we were impressed with this recent video clip from CBC’s “The National” about a reunion in Regina of a family of Syrian refugees.

We also held two evenings of informal conversation and discussion on “Homes.”

1) Monday November 18: 700 pm: church lounge

Focus: Chapters 1 to 10, pages 13-123
Conversation starters:

  • In three words or less, what is this book about?
  • What surprised you about the descriptions of growing up in a war zone?
  • Are there particular images from the book that stick with you?
  • People often wonder why we hear so little about female family members’ stories. What do you think this reflects of Abu Bakr’s reality?
  • One of the main reasons this book was written was to build empathy. What parts of Abu Bakr’s journey connects to a life story of your own?
  • While this is Bakr’s story, written from his point of view, it is authored by Winnie Yeung. What responsibilities does Winnie have, as an author of creative non-fiction, to honor Bakr’s voice?
  • Who is the hero in this story?

2) Monday November 25: 700 pm: church lounge

Focus: Chapters 11 to Afterword, pages 125-216
Conversation starters

  • As Abu Bakr and his family began to settle into their new life in Canada they faced many challenges, including many conflicting emotions. What parts of this journey were predictable or surprising to you?
  • How was life different, both positive and negative, in Canada and Syria or Iraq?
  • What does this book say about loneliness and isolation?
  • It seems that many countries and communities are dealing with political controversy over welcoming immigrants and refugees into their society. How has this book affected the way you view this issue?
  • What questions does this book raise about newcomers in a society? Do you think this book will change your impression of the people in your community?
  • After reading this book are there specific actions Mill Woods United Church should take related to newcomers in Canada?