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What Strange Paradise

with Omar El Akkad
Hosted by Adrian Harewood

What Strange Paradise

with Omar El Akkad
Hosted by Adrian Harewood
Omar El Akkad - Photo by Michael Lionstar

Here's a direct link to the video on Vimeo:


Don’t miss our final virtual event of the season! 


We’re thrilled to present CBC’s Adrian Harewood in conversation with Omar El Akkad winner of the 2021 Scotiabank Giller Prize for What Strange Paradise, a profoundly moving novel that shows the global refugee crisis through the eyes of a child.


More bodies have washed up on the shores of a small island. Another overfilled, 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 back in their homelands. But miraculously, someone has survived the passage: nine-year-old Amir, a Syrian boy who is soon rescued by Vänna. Vänna is a teenage girl, who, despite being native to the island, experiences her own sense of homelessness in a place and among people she has come to disdain. And though Vänna and Amir are complete strangers, though they don’t speak a common language, Vänna is determined to do whatever it takes to save the boy.


In alternating chapters, we learn about Amir’s life and how he came to be on the boat, and we follow him and the girl as they make their way toward safety. What Strange Paradise is the story of two children finding their way through a hostile world. But it is also a story of empathy and indifference, of hope and despair - and about the way each of those things can blind us to reality.


Books are available from our friends at Perfect Books.


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