Monday, 9 March 2015

Canada Reads- part 1

The theme for Canada Reads 2015:
"Books that can change perspectives, challenge stereotypes and illuminate issues"

  I started with this book.  It is a family memoir, written by Kamal Al-Solaylee, who has lived in Toronto since 1996, where he works at Ryerson University.
  It has a great opening sentence:  “I am the son of an illiterate shepherdess who was married off at fourteen and had eleven children by the time she was thirty-three.” 
  Born in Yemen, Kamal was the youngest of those children, born in 1964 when the family was prospering.  However, they were forced to leave by the socialist government in 1967, and lived in Beirut.  They also lived in Cairo, but the father never regained his status and was unable to support the family. They finally returned to Yemen, but everything had changed.  Islamic extremism had taken over.  Some of his brothers were discovering the Muslim Brotherhood and his sisters were wearing head scarves and abayas.  Some had arranged marriages.  His sisters had once felt free to wear bikinis on the beach, but now felt the pressure to stay home, stay covered and not speak in public.
P. 129 "In a world that cut choices short for women, sacrifice gave you something to do - it was an achievement of a sort, a choice, so to speak".  
  Kamal was struggling with his own life, having realized that he was gay and knowing that it would be "Intolerable" to remain in Yemen.  So he was able to get a scholarship in England and, later found his way to Canada.
  He managed to get many small jobs and was content, returning occassionally to check on his family.  
  But 9-11 changed everything for him: "To be an Arab in North America at the time meant that the horror of those events was coupled with fear of repercussions, retaliations, discrimination or a combination, just because we shared the same heritage as the hijackers."
  Kamal's trip back to his family in 2006 caused a four-year long depression.  He constantly followed the events in Yemen, as his family was in the middle of the war zone.He was filled with helplessness and guilt.

My opinion:  This book does illuminate issues and might change perspectives.  It could be a winner.

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