The Boy on the Beach

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 01 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

Thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada and NetGalley for providing me with a digital ARC of THE BOY ON THE BEACH: MY FAMILY'S ESCAPE FROM SYRIA AND OUR HOPE FOR A NEW HOME written by Tima Kurdi, thus making it possible for me to read and write an unbiased review of the book. 

Tima Kurdi is the aunt of Alan Kurdi, the Syrian refugee toddler who washed up dead on the beach in Turkey in 2015, and was in that photo that went viral around the world. 
This is the story of Tima Kurdi's close-knit Syrian family living in a home with love and laughter before the war and being forced to literally run for their lives and flee their homeland after the war started. It explains what happened that tragic night and the events that led up to it. These refugees wanted what most of us want, healthy, peaceful, safe lives for their loved ones. 

Abdullah, father of little Alan Kurdi, said to the author, "Okay, sister. What I have learned is that it doesn't matter if you have no money and you live in a shed eating lentils. All that matters is that your family is there, that you have love. Love gives us strength and power to forget the suffering and pain. Tell the people. Tell them nothing else matters. We don't thank God enough for all the things we have."
I highly recommend that you read this book. 5 stars ⭐️️⭐️️⭐️️⭐️️⭐️️
Posted Feb. 20, 2019 Goodreads
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Heartbreaking, just heartbreaking.  Tima Kurdi has written a very important book which serves to bring home in a real and very personal way the horrible plight of refugees. It is sad that we need something like this to bring awareness.  But since we do, I really hope many people read this book as it is powerful in impact.
My thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an arc in exchange for my honest review.
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Tima Kurdi's "The Boy on the Beach" is the absolutely heart wrenching story of the life and family behind the world changing photograph of 2year old Alan Kurdi in his red t-shirt and jean shorts face down in the sand at the water's edge. This book is an absolute must read for everyone in order to understand the magnitude of what happened and is still happening in Syria and the Middle East. The Kurdi family was an average middle class family just like many North American families, until very suddenly everything changed. The pain, suffering, heart ache, and loss that Syrians had to endure is mind blowing, but instead of letting is sour their hearts, they have kept their focus on family, helping others, and working towards peace. This book really drives it home that we are all the same, and in the blink of an eye it could be us running for our lives with nothing but our children and our clothes on our backs. Would you like to be treated the way the Kurdi family and tens of millions of other refugees have been treated? "The Boy on the Beach" is a much needed wakeup call.
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The image of a dead boy on a Mediterranean beach in September 2015 was something that shook the world and, in Canada, brought down and toppled a government. It exposed the world to the Syrian refugee crisis in ways previously thought unimaginable. But do people still remember that picture? Has the spotlight shifted to the circus of the Trump presidency? Maybe, but that boy, Alan Kurdi, is further memorialized in his Canadian aunt’s breathtaking new memoir, The Boy on the Beach. If you had any doubts that the Syrian refugees were anything but a peaceful, loving people, you should have no doubts by the end of this book. It’s a bit of an odd memoir in that it is less about a person — though both Tima’s and Alan’s stories and journeys plays a large part, which is a different tact to take because Alan was someone so young — and more about a family.

The book is divided into three parts. The first third of the book is about Tima’s family life in Syria with her parents and siblings prior to the current war. It’s painted vividly, a place where jasmine fills the air and all the teenaged girls aspired to be like Madonna. There are portraits of simple, loving family life — such as the tale of when Tima’s mother found out she smoked, and implored Tima to do it in front of her so there would be no secrets between the two. And your mouth may water at the descriptions of delicious, exotic foods. The second third is more about the events that lead to young Alan’s death — along with his mother’s and sibling’s. The wistfulness of the first third gives way to a more devastating account of what it is like to live as a refugee, displaced from a war-torn home with all of its inherent sufferings. The last third is more about the aftermath of the story of Alan’s death breaking in the media and his father’s attempts to come to grips with the loss of his children.

As you can tell, The Boy on the Beach is kind of like three books in one. The last third, in particular, feels like an extended advertisement for Tima’s new charitable foundation, which is the only slight knock against the book. However, this memoir deftly weaves its chronology together, giving Western readers an idea of what Kurdi’s family gave up — both positive and negative — in deciding to become refugees, how they struggled to make ends meet as refugees, and the hint of hope that war will be over eventually, and some sense of normalcy will return to Syria.

The book succeeds in making interested readers want to do something — however big or small — to help refugees. My own eyes were opened to the realities of refugee living as, too often, the media portrays refugees as being needy and helpless. While refugees certainly have their needs, The Boy on the Beach made me realize that systemic injustice prohibits them from meeting their basic needs — but that refugees also can be as resourceful as anyone else. So the book does make readers want to do something more for these hardworking people.

What is particularly heartbreaking about the book is that it chronicles the frustrating paperwork that goes with sponsoring refugee families — asking for documents that refugees simply don’t have. In this sense, the book is a powerful indictment of the previous Harper Conservative government. (That said, the author has some words about Justin Trudeau, who did a lot at the outset of his election as Prime Minister to bring in more Syrian refugees, but, now, not so much.)

The book also works as a personal journey: we learn how Tima came to the profession of hairstyling, but gave that up to focus more squarely on helping others, doing so even when she can barely help herself. This is a story of transformation, of circumstances making someone else into a better person, no matter how awful those circumstances might well be. You get the sense that Tima has grown as a person throughout her life (as we all do) and even though this title was written by a ghostwriter (as alluded to in the acknowledgements), Tima has a singular voice that is heartrendingly honest.

As a former member of the media, I found the passages that grapple with the impact of the now famous photos of Alan Kurdi washed up on the shoreline of Turkey to be illuminating. On one hand, Tima wrestles with the invasion of privacy for her family of having such graphic images published. On the other, Tima understands that the photos galvanized a movement worldwide to help others. I admire her honesty, as well as her candid admission that, while she had a great many suitors in the media and government who wanted to help, not all of them did so. (Notwithstanding the fact that she was met with some heavy trolling online, which I did not know about until now.)

Overall, The Boy on the Beach is a volume that comes with the force of a wallop upside the head. My own views on refugees changed from passive and unsure acceptance to full-blown acceptance in the face of Trump’s travel ban, and this book just added weight to that change of thought. I had to wonder, “Am I doing enough? What else could I be doing?” all as a result of reading this book. I already have my fingers in many pies — writing reviews is just one of them — but, nevertheless of what action I do wind up taking, this book is a stark reminder that refugees face their plight day in and day out, not just when a media event comes along. All in all, The Boy on the Beach should reawaken readers to the fact that the word refugee does not equate to the word terrorist, and, for that and other things, this book is — fortunately or unfortunately, you decide — necessary reading.
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Where do I even start with this one? It captured my attention immediately and entirely. The picture of the boy on the beach (Alan Kurdi) is famous and with good reason. To see such a young child laying there as if sleeping, a tragic loss of life, sends us reeling and for some of us it triggers a need to do something, anything.  In this book Tima Kurdi shares the reality behind that image. The heartache and devastation that rocked the entire family and almost crushed Alan's loving father. I can't even begin to imagine the effect it can have on a person to have his wife and children lose their lives while striving to find a safer environment for themselves. 

This book takes the reader and leads us through a picturesque and stunning description of the family before the war. It's breathtaking, especially for me as a reader that hasn't really experienced family bonding. The warmth, love and peacefulness is something to be savoured. The author then leads us through periods of the war, sharing in detail the fracturing of the family as they all tried to escape the horror and destruction. Tima, having moved to Vancouver, Canada years ago is on the outside, but visits her family back in Syria and shares her thoughts, images, fears of all she witnessed. Later still we visit that point in time leading up to the famous photo and I was so invested at that point that my heart leapt, my breathing no longer coming easy as I felt the raw emotion hit. 

This is one of those books where you start off as one person and find yourself at the end of the experience feeling totally changed because of it. At least, that was how I came out of it. It's an important read, and one that I dearly hope will be widely read. It gets a 5/5.
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I received an ARC of this book to read from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. The Boy on the Beach by Tima Kurdi is the story of the family of the little boy who drowned while trying to seek refuge from the war in Syria. The photograph of Alan Kurdi was seen all around the world and I think it made clear that the people trying to escape from the wars in their homelands were families just like ours and not just numbers. This story is heartbreaking but it is such an important story and as difficult as I found it to read this book I continued because it was the least thing I could do to support those seeking safety. Reading this book helped to increase my understanding of the desperation felt by those seeking refuge. I do recommend this book, I think it is a story that needs to be told and to be shared.
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An amazing story that deepens the understanding of the plight of the Syrian refugees.   Fatima, now living in Canada, tells the story of her brothers attempt to bring his family to Canada after he was tortured (all his teeth were pulled out) and brutally beaten.   They, and others feared for their lives and left in droves to seek asylum.   She helps her brother financially so the family do not starve.  She is in touch with Abdullah constantly and becomes desperate to get the family to Canada.  She sends them money to make the dangerous sea voyage.   It is a heart wrenching account.   Very well written.
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This novel is a wonderful, heartbreaking glimpse of what the life of a refugee is in modern times and a call to help those trapped in the system. 

The author did a beautiful job discussing the plight of her family in their attempt to escape from war-torn Syria as told by the sister that had left years earlier. She discusses the loopholes and ardent rules by the various governments that her family had to follow just to be safe, the hardships her family faced and the devastating loss that finally opened peoples eyes around the world to the plight of refugees.

I highly recommend this book and hope that it does for you what it did for me, it opened my eyes to the real story behind the boy on the beach and refreshed that need to do more to help others, especially the refugees that have nowhere else to go. They are simply trying to escape atrocities, war, and ethnic cleansing. They don't choose to live in abject poverty for minor reasons, it's simply to survive.

Thank you, NetGalley, the publisher and the talented Tima Kurdi for opening my eyes.
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Tima Kurdi is the aunt of Alan Kurdi. Most of humanity only became aware of this beautiful Syrian toddler when photos of his dead body, which washed up on a Greek beach, made international news during the summer of 2015. I was one of the many who would watch the nightly news and exclaim, “Who would anyone try to cross dangerous waters in a rubber dingy?” Now I know. This book personalizes the Syrian War for those of us privileged enough to watch it, or not, from afar.

Tima Kurdi moved to Canada as a young woman and established her life here. When the Syrian War started she worked tirelessly to help her relatives come to Canada as refugees. She describes the idyllic life her family enjoyed in Syria during her childhood when Syria enjoyed peace, jobs were plentiful, food was abundant, water was clean, electricity was taken for granted and education was readily available. Because the Kurdi family was always close knit and spoke with each other on a frequent basis, Tima Kurdi was fully aware and informed of how the war affected her family's lives and why each of her brothers and sisters eventually chose to leave their beloved home land. She chronicles these hardships and changing times in detail for us, exactly as they were experienced by her loved ones. She also documents her repeated attempts to help her family come to Canada as legitimate refugees and the continuous reams of red tape and road blocks that met her attempts.

This book is a must read. I have rated it so low due to the many issues with formatting and editing. Tima Kurdi's message needs to be heard.
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A heartbreaking story about one Syrian family’s love, loss and hope as they struggle with the crisis caused by the civil war in Syria. This book should be translated into many languages, in hopes that the next generation of adults learn from the grave mistakes of the current and past generations. Although many tears were shed while reading this book, I believe that it also brings hope to humankind for a better, more humane future.
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Before reading this book I only knew about the war in Syria and the refugee crisis from the few and farbetween articles on the front page news (but I didn’t even know about the boy on the beach picture).

The first few chapters make you wish you were a part of the family; from the joyous meals and events to sharing the love that is so pure and overwhelming. As the novel goes on, much of the book is told from the perspective of someone living in Canada. As a Canadian I felt like I could relate to this, and the helpless feeling of not being able to do anything. At the same time I felt responsible for sitting by so idly. 

As the author describes the events that led to the boy on the beach, her words are gripping and raw. The frank nature of her storytelling left me with a real sadness that lingers much after I finished the book. 

Would definitely reccomend to anyone, especially Canadians to gain some perspective on why inclusivity and compassion is so critical today.
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The boy in the beach. 

My heart broke when I saw that picture... he was near the same age as my son. Alan’s death touched me then, and Tima’s  story powerfully shows that we are more alike than different. 
I cried more than I care to admit while reading this, and after I held my children tight. Nothing else matters as much as it did before I started reading. I have my children, alive and well, and we are together. My whole family. 
My heart breaks for Syria and for the kind, peaceful people just wanting a safe place to live, together. 
I am forever changed by reading this book. And I implore you, please read. Please know that the suffering of Syrians is not over. And a little kindness can change someone’s world.
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When I picked up this book, I wanted to see and feel what the family involved saw and felt.  This book does make this tragic event real.   It also show all the short comings of the rest of the world that is sitting warm and safe in their homes.  Even though I remembered the news stories from the time, I found it hard to put it down.  It is a very emotional read, and very much worth taking the time to read it.
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Thank you NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for a copy of this important book which focuses on the hardships and heartbreak of refugees and their families. 

 Most people remember the shock of seeing the photograph of little Alan Kurdi lying dead on the beach. Tina Kurdi, his aunt and author of this book had been attempting to help her brother, Abdullah, father of little Alan, his wife and two sons to safety from war torn Syria. She was also struggling to bring her older brother, Mohammed and family to Canada.

 Although she had raised money to bring some of her relatives  to Canada and had sponsors, there was so much red tape in the way and applications seemed to go nowhere, shuffled from one government department to the next. Everything was at a standstill. At the time the photograph was published, Alan became a symbol of the horror in Syria, and the plight of refugees. I am proud of the present Canadian government which eased up on the roadblocks and brought in many refugees to our country. The same goes for many European countries. Sadly some countries have hardened their hearts, imposing more restrictions. 
     Her family had been a large extended one living a comfortable life in and around Damascus, which she calls Jasmine City. The family was a close one with lots of love and good times. We get the harrowing story of Abdullah, his wife and two little boys attempting to reach Greece from Turkey in a small, unsafe boat and the drowning of his wife and children. They were attempting to get to a safe place in Europe after Abdullah had been tortured and his family were living in poverty. She details the aftermath, where Abdullah suffered PTSD and serious health problems. He subsequently moved to the Kurdish section of Iraq and is helping refugee children there. 
    Tima, from her home in Canada has become a spokesperson for the plight of refugees and for cessation of hostilities in Syria. She has made many trips abroad, and has managed to relocate older brother, Mohammed and family to Canada. She details the plight of other family members, a few still in Syria, but most scattered over Europe, some still in refugee camps. I would like to see photographs in order to put faces on these relatives. Nothing exploitive, and photos of happier times in Damascus, as well as photos of a couple of refugee camps. I felt this would make these many relatives and their stories a more powerful part of the story. I find much to admire in this dedicated woman who persisted in her mission through much worry and stress.
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When Tima Kurdi gave up hope that her Syrian brother, his wife and two children would ever be allowed to come to Canada as refugees, she sent him five thousand dollars to pay smugglers to take them to Greece

Tima, who grew up as the eldest daughter of a Kurdish family in Damascus – “Jasmine City” – had come to Canada in 1992, married to a man approved of by her parents. Now it was summer, 2015, and the Harper government was dragging its heels on refugee acceptance despite the worsening of the war in Syria.

Throughout the long month of August Tima waited for word that Abdullah and his family had made it across the few kilometres of the Aegean Sea that separated Turkey from the Greek island of Kos. From there, hopefully, they could move north to a European country where they might begin new lives.

Abdullah could see the island from where he stood. “I can see it from here. It’s right there. So close and yet so far.” Day after day, he waited, with his wife Rehanna and sons Ghalib, four, and Alan, two, for storm-tossed seas to subside. Twice they set out, only to have their boats flounder. Turkish Coast guard cutters brought them back to shore. The third boat they took overturned and sank in high waves.

On the morning of September 2, Tima saw on her cell phone an image of a small boy, drowned on a Turkish beach. It was Alan. His brother and mother had also drowned. Only Abdullah had survived.

The Boy on the Beach is the story of how this came about, the price that the people of Syria have paid for the uprising that began in April 2011, and what has happened to Tima’s family since that awful day when TV stations and newspapers around the world carried that dramatic picture.

This is a book filled with sincerity and love, but also with frustration and bitter tears of failure. It speaks to the love and intimacy of Tima Kurdi’s family, of her growing up with a longing to be an independent woman of the world.

Tima’s account of her efforts to secure the entry to Canada of Abdullah and his family, and also her brother Mohammad and his wife and children, makes for difficult reading. Tima’s MP carried a letter to the Minister of Citizenship, Chris Alexander, pleading for approval. Nothing happened.

By now, in 2015, Abdullah had been captured and tortured by an ISIS gang in Syria . He had found refuge in Turkey with his family, as had Mohammad and his. That summer, Mohammad joined the exodus to Germany, one of a million refugees who walked most of the way from Greece. After the death of Abdullah’s wife and children, the Canadian government relented, flew Mohammed’s family to him in Germany, and allowed them to come to Canada as refugees under Tima’s sponsorship.

The death of Alan Kurdi became an issue in the October, 2015 Canadian federal election. Why had the government been so slow to react to the crisis? Tima Kurdi writes with remarkable restraint of her experiences with the refugee system, and tries to avoid placing political blame. Canadians were not so charitable toward the Harper government, turning it out in favour of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals who promised to allow 25,000 refugees into Canada by year’s end. They missed that target by but a few weeks.

(Like other Canadians, I was shocked by the picture of Alan Kurdi on the beach in Turkey. We organized a committee of writers in Kingston, Ontario to sponsor a refugee family. Syrian writer Jamal Saeed , his wife and two sons recently celebrated their first year here.)

The Boy on the Beach stands as a personal testament to the disaster that has overtaken Syria, and how the world has reacted to the upheaval of seven million people. The book concludes with Tima’s reunion with Abdullah in Iraq, where he has settled in Erbil, capital of the Kurdish autonomous region. Together, they have launched the Kurdi Foundation to assist children living in refugee camps.

Tima Kurdi is unsure whether writing this book has helped her find answers to questions that have haunted her since Alan’s death. She hopes it will help people understand that “we are all essentially the same; we all dream of healthy, peaceful, safe lives … We are more similar than different, and we are stronger when united.” Tima will speak at the Kingston Writersfest in September, 2018.

(My thanks to Simon and Schuster for an advance reading of this book, which will be published April 27.)
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My heart absolutely broke for this family back when the news broke, and again while reading this book. It is truly a heartbreaking story, but also humanizes refugees. This was an important book.
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