By Alya Somar
2022 was a record breaking year for new permanent residents to Canada. Over 400,000 new permanent residents chose to make Canada their home. With so many Canadians, comes so many stories. Migration stories from all across the world are highlighted in this month’s FOLD challenge, fiction and nonfiction books about immigration journeys.
Twelve exquisitely written stories depicting the search for human connection and the attempt to fit in far from home.
All the Shining People explores migration, diaspora, and belonging within Toronto’s Jewish South African community, as individuals come to terms with the oppressive hierarchies that separate, and the connections that bind. Seeking a place to belong, the book’s characters — including a life-drawing model searching the streets for her lover; a woman confronting secrets from her past in the new South Africa; and a man grappling with the legacy of his father, a former political prisoner — crave authentic relationships that replicate the lost feeling of home. With its focus on family, culture, and identity, All the Shining People captures the experiences of immigrants and outsiders with honesty, subtlety, and deep sympathy.
A vivid love letter to the 1980s and one woman’s struggle to overcome the challenges of immigration.
It’s 1986, and Muna Heddad is in a bind. She and her son have moved to Montreal, leaving behind a civil war filled with bad memories in Lebanon. She had plans to find work as a French teacher, but no one in Quebec trusts her to teach the language. She needs to start making money, and fast. The only work Muna can find is at a weight-loss center as a hotline operator.
All day, she takes calls from people responding to ads seen in magazines or on TV. On the phone, she’s Mona, and she’s quite good at listening. These strangers all have so much to say once someone shows interest in their lives–marriages gone bad, parents dying, isolation, personal inadequacies. Even as her daily life in Canada is filled with invisible barriers at every turn, at the office Muna is privy to her clients’ deepest secrets.
Following international acclaim for Niko (2011) and The Bleeds (2018), Dimitri Nasrallah has written a vivid elegy to the 1980s, the years he first moved to Canada, bringing the era’s systemic challenges into the current moment through this deeply endearing portrait of struggle, perseverance, and bonding.
When Lily was eleven years old, her mother, Swee Hua, walked away from the family, never to be seen or heard from again. Now a new mother herself, Lily becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to Swee Hua. She recalls the spring of 1987, growing up in a small British Columbia mining town where there were only a handful of Asian families; Lily’s previously stateless father wanted to blend seamlessly into Canadian life, while her mother, alienated and isolated, longed to return to Brunei. Years later, still affected by Swee Hua’s disappearance, Lily’s family is stubbornly silent to her questioning. But eventually, an old family friend provides a clue that sends Lily to Southeast Asia to find out the truth.
Winner of the Jim Wong-Chu Emerging Writers Award from the Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop, Dandelion is a beautifully written and affecting novel about motherhood, family secrets, migration, isolation, and mental illness. With clarity and care, it delves into the many ways we define home, identity, and above all, belonging.
Nila the Bleeding Garden describes the turbulent journey of an Afghan girl called Nila who suddenly has to escape her homeland with her family during the long Afghan war. As a child refugee, she experiences the trauma of displacement, first to Pakistan and then to Canada, during which her family struggles to survive and slowly falls apart. This novel describes the loss and dysfunction caused by war and displacement, suffered by so many in our times. No reader will fail to be moved by this utterly gripping tale.