WINNER OF THE 2021 SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE
SHORTLISTED FOR 2022 CANADA READS
From the widely acclaimed author of American War: a new novel–beautifully written, unrelentingly dramatic, and profoundly moving–that brings the global refugee crisis down to the level of a child’s eyes.
More bodies have washed up on the shores of a small island. Another over-filled, ill-equipped, dilapidated ship has sunk under the weight of its too many passengers: Syrians, Ethiopians, Egyptians, Lebanese, Palestinians, all of them desperate to escape untenable lives in their homelands. And only one has made the passage: nine-year-old Amir, a Syrian boy who has the good fortune to fall into the hands not of the officials but of Vanna: a teenage girl, native to the island, who lives inside her own sense of homelessness in a place and among people she has come to disdain. And though she and the boy are complete strangers, though they don’t speak a common language, she determines to do whatever it takes to save him.
In alternating chapters, we learn the story of the boy’s life and how he came to be on the boat; and we follow the girl and boy as they make their way toward a vision of safety. But as the novel unfurls, we begin to understand that this is not merely the story of two children finding their way through a hostile world, it is the story of our collective moment in this time: of empathy and indifference, of hope and despair–and of the way each of those things can blind us to reality, or guide us to a better one.
OMAR EL AKKAD is the author of American War. Born in Cairo, Egypt, he was raised in Doha, Qatar, until he moved to Canada with his family. He is an award-winning journalist and author who has covered the NATO-led war in Afghanistan, the military trials at Guantanomo Bay, the Arab Spring revolution in Egypt, the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson, Missouri, and many other of the most important events of the last decade. Formerly of the Globe and Mail, he is the recipient of Canada’s National Newspaper Award for investigative reporting and the Goff Penny Memorial Prize for Young Canadian Journalists, as well as three National Magazine Award honourable mentions. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
TAREQ HADHAD is a Syrian-Canadian Entrepreneur, international public speaker, and philanthropist. Hadhad is known for his confectionery business Peace by Chocolate, of which he is the Founder and CEO. The bestselling biography, Peace By Chocolate, follows the story of his family’s journey to Canada and the founding of their chocolatier. This year Hadhad is championing Omar El Akkad’s novel, What Strange Paradise, in Canada Reads 2022.
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