Below, author Anne Mahon talks about why she wrote The Lucky Ones and how doing so affected her life and others’. For your chance to meet Anne and some of the people whose stories are included in the book or to take part in other events during January & February, see this list of On The Same Page events.
“Our lives make no sense if we are not helping others.” I first heard these inspiring words while interviewing refugee Muuxi Adam in 2007. When I heard them, something inside me noticeably shifted. I could feel their importance physically–like my cells instinctively understood something at a deeper level than my mind could make sense of–and I knew then that writing this book and listening to refugees’ stories would be a pivotal experience.
Seven years later, Great Plains Publications published my first book The Lucky Ones: African Refugees’ Stories of Extraordinary Courage. In May 2013, it was launched with 250 supporters and great celebration at McNally Robinson Booksellers. In September, the book was chosen for the 2013-14 On The Same Page program, sponsored by the Winnipeg Library and The Winnipeg Foundation.
The Lucky Ones is a collection of 17 powerful stories of refugees’ personal experiences in Africa, as well as in Canada. The book creates a mosaic of stories of tragedy and loss, as well as human triumph, told with matter-of-fact dignity that has elicited compassion from readers. Themes include gratitude, survival, the life-changing importance of education and the need to be valued. The three goals of the book are to increase awareness and understanding of the challenges of refugees; honor refugees and their place in Canadian society; and philanthropically raise funds for two Winnipeg charities that assist newcomers.
My life has changed meaningfully since beginning the book. Before, I knew only one refugee. Now, not only have I come to know the courageous subjects, but the book has also been an introduction to new associations with a greater community that cares passionately for and about refugees. When I began work on the book, I also started volunteering in adult English classes at Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM). It’s now my 7th year in the classroom, and I continue to be energized and my life enriched by the connections I make while helping students there.
Muuxi, the man I referred to in the introduction, has founded Humankind International, a charity committed to building an early years school in Dadaab the world’s largest refugee camp in Kenya. He asked a number of us to be founding board members three years ago. After considerable commitment, the school will open later this month.
The subjects’ repeated gratitude for peace and acceptance in Canada has made me a prouder Canadian, more grateful for the many things I take for granted, and grounded me during my daily challenges.
By taking a leap of faith to write this book, my life has been invigorated and transformed. Ten years ago, just as knowing refugees was not a common part of my life, neither was writing. After completing The Lucky Ones, I missed the creative process of writing so much that I am currently researching my second book. I have a newfound belief, best explained by a quote from The Lucky Ones: “The resilience of the subjects in this book, as well as this book’s creation, have taught me this: we should never limit our expectations to the boundaries of what we already know.”
– Anne Mahon