A Thousand Farewells

Over the past few years I have been intrigued with what is happening internationally, especially in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and other places that have been and continue to be harmed and destroyed. The Arab Spring was a concept that took my North American mind a fair while to wrap itself around, something that I think indirectly effects me and many others. International work is also something that I am drawn too but the Arab communities is a part of the world I have lacked knowledge and experience in.

I feel, through the narrative Nahlah Ayed provides in her A Thousand Farewells, that I have learnt more than I could have from articles and textbooks. It is one individuals perspective of a living experience in war torn environments. Her notes documenting not only the journalistic perspective that she was commissioned for but also the interactions and stories she experiences while speaking to individuals “off the record”.

What really pulled me to Ayed’s book was her story of being taken from the comforts of her Winnipeg, Canada home and uprooted to the Arab world as a child. The experience of living in refugee camps, with limited to no security, and without an abundance of stuff after living a privileged, middle-class, and healthy life in Canada is a narrative many of us can learn from. It is not an experience I personally wish to experience, only because I feel I am much to connected to the materialist goods that make up each of my days, I enjoy my security, and I am not sure living without a proper bathroom would be doable. Let’s be honest, I like my multiple hot showers a day.

I offer this book for Books to Build Solidarity because I believe it is a book that enlightens us with the daily happenings in the lives of many in the majority (developing) world that we need to stop pretending is not happening. It shares personal stories of being in the mist of war, the loss of friends and family because of war, and insight into the sense of community, the love for each other, the support of one another, and the separation of communities, the dismantling of family structures, and the impact on holistic wellness.

If social media has been your primary resource for understanding what is happening in the majority world that is being directly impacted by the war on terrorism, I think Ayed’s book may be of your interest to you. It will shed a different light on the situation, may have your connecting with refugee citizens in your neighbourhood differently, and hopefully allow you to understand life in a war torn zone a little more directly.

Along the journey through Ayed’s book you will also learn a few cultural things, such as “The rules. Dat wa tackled. Habits and traditions. Many of them were time-honoured reflections of the warmth and hospitality of Arab culture, vestiges of the tribal system that had ruled most of the region in the past; others stemmed from the dominance of Islam; and yet others came from long-standing superstition” (pg. 43). I was intrigued with how many of these practices are still performed by individuals who have migrated to new communities. Ultimately, the book begins to piece things together, to bring some clarification to the muddled media news reports, and shares an insiders perspectives to the happenings globally.

2 thoughts on “A Thousand Farewells

  1. I’m sure that is a very interesting book. Working in different parts of Toronto has opened my eyes to a number of different cultures. I find it particularly interesting how you can almost guess the situation of a particular community simply based on its cultural makeup. I think we often forget that privilege exists for the privileged. Loves


  2. Privilege is perhaps one of the challenges in our current society – it brings with it entitlement, power dynamics, conflict, and so much more. But yes, Toronto is an excellent learning ground to cultural diversity – Victoria is lacking in this department.


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