Presenters: Silmy Abdullah, Kazim Ali, Kamal Al-Solaylee
Host: Bee Quammie
“Places do not belong to us. We belong to them.” – Kazim Ali
We all desire to find a place we feel at home; a place where we belong. But what if ‘home’ is far away, intangible, a memory from childhood, or no longer exists? Silmy Abdullah, Kazim Ali, and Kamal Al-Solaylee join host Bee Quammie for a discussion about the idea of home, and their must-read new books.
Home of the Floating Lily
By Silmy Abdullah
Caught between cultures, immigrant families from a Bengali neighbourhood in Toronto strive to navigate their home, relationships, and happiness.
Set in both Canada and Bangladesh, the eight stories in Home of the Floating Lily follow the lives of everyday people as they navigate the complexities of migration, displacement, love, friendship, and familial conflict. A young woman moves to Toronto after getting married but soon discovers her husband is not who she believes him to be. A mother reconciles her heartbreak when her sons defy her expectations and choose their own paths in life. A lonely international student returns to Bangladesh and forms an unexpected bond with her domestic helper. A working-class woman, caught between her love for Bangladesh and her determination to raise her daughter in Canada, makes a life-altering decision after a dark secret from the past is revealed.
Iilmy Abdullah is a Bangladeshi-Canadian author and lawyer. Her legal practice focuses on the intersection of immigration, poverty, and gender-based violence. Silmy writes both fiction and non-fiction, and Home of the Floating Lily is her debut collection. She lives in Toronto.
Northern Light: Power, Land and the Memory of Water
By Kazim Ali
Kazim Ali’s earliest memories are of Jenpeg, a temporary town in the forests of northern Manitoba where his immigrant father worked on the construction of a hydroelectric dam. As a child, Ali had no idea that the dam was located on the unceded lands of the Indigenous Pimicikamak, the "people of rivers and lakes."
Northern Light recounts Ali’s memories of his childhood and his return to Pimicikamak as an adult. During his visit, he searches for the sites of his childhood memories and learns more about the realities of life in Pimicikamak: the environmental and social impact of the Jenpeg dam, the effects of colonialism and cultural erasure, and the community’s initiatives to preserve and strengthen their identity. Deeply rooted in place, Northern Light is both a stunning exploration of home, belonging, and identity and an immersive account of contemporary life in one Indigenous community.
Poet, editor, and prose writer Kazim Ali was born in the United Kingdom to Muslim parents of Indian, Iranian, and Egyptian descent and raised in Canada and the United States. He is the author of seven poetry collections, two novels, and three works of non-fiction. He teaches at the University of California, San Diego.
Return: Why We Go Back to Where We Come From
By Kamal Al-Solaylee
Drawing on extensive reporting from around the world and astute political analysis, Return: Why We Go Back to Where We Come From illuminates a personal quest. Kamal Al-Solaylee yearns to return to his homeland of Yemen, now wracked by war, starvation and daily violence, to reconnect with his family. Yemen, as well as Egypt, another childhood home, call to him, even though he ran away from them in his youth and found peace and prosperity on the calm shores of Toronto. Return is a chronicle of love and loss, of global reach and personal desires. It sets the narrative of going home against geopolitical forces that are likely to shape the rest of this century and beyond. It’s a book for anyone who has ever wondered what it would be like to return to their roots.
Kamal Al-Solaylee is the author of the nationally bestselling memoir Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes, which won the 2013 Toronto Book Award and was a finalist for the CBC’s Canada Reads, as well as the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction. His second book, Brown: What Being Brown in the World Today Means (to Everyone), was hailed as “brilliant” by the Walrus magazine and “essential reading” by the Globe and Mail. A finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Nonfiction as well as the Trillium Book Award, Brown won the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing. A two-time finalist for the National Magazine Awards, Al-Solaylee won a gold medal for his column in Sharp in 2019. He holds a Ph.D. in English and is a professor of journalism and literary non-fiction at Ryerson University in Toronto.
Host Bee Quammie is a multimedia storyteller: a writer, radio host, TV personality, and public speaker.
She has written for publications like The Globe and Mail, Men's Health, Today’s Parent, Macleans, and more. She is the co-host of the Global News Radio show The Kultur’D Show and has been a featured panelist and commentator on shows like CityTV's Cityline, CBC's The National, Global's ET Canada, and CTV's The Social. Bee regularly writes and speaks on topics like race and culture, parenting, mental health, and more, and she resides in the GTA with her two daughters.