Syrian refugee student, Edmonton teacher find a novel in his experience

Westman Journal Ottawa - What's your secret wish? That's the first question teacher Winnie Canuel asks her students at the start of English as a second language classes at her Edmonton school.

For Abu Bakr al Rabeeah, an Iraqi refugee from Syria, there were two answers. First, he wanted to be a soccer player. But second, and perhaps more urgently, he wanted to tell his story.

This week, that wish was realized in a way the soft-spoken 15-year-old never imagined: it was published in a book.

Al Rabeeah and Canuel began working together last fall, about six months after his family arrived in Canada as 10 of the 23,000 Iraqi refugees who've settled here since 2009.

His family lived with the war for three years before being brought to Canada via the United Nations.

Canuel had long thought about writing a book of her own, telling friends she was waiting for the right story to find her. In listening to al Rabeeah talk about his family and his experiences, she found it.

The novel they wrote together, called "Homes," is now for sale in Edmonton bookstores and online.