Reading in Vancouver for Kurdish House.

There are days in my life that I’d be willing to live over and over without changing a moment- May 18 was one of those. I woke up in Shwan and Yvonne’s place in Coquitlam to a fantastic breakfast, was chauffeured to Douglas College with a detour on the way to see the beautiful Maillardville and then I ran into my old friend Jeff on his way to the event. “The Event” as it’s been called for 2 months, was planned by Kurdish House, mainly Shwan Chawshin, with ferocity. He invited MPs, put out flyers, advertised on Kurdtv, emailed, facebooked, telephoned…Shwan filled that auditorium.

Vancouver reading May 2014

Vancouver reading May 2014

What a thrill for me to read to a Kurdish audience! I felt my life had come full circle. After all these years, I was embraced again by a Kurdish community. Eighteen years ago I promised a group of Kurdish refugees that I would tell their story to the world and here I was reading from it to a group of Kurds, many of whom were refugees.

I’ve been haunted by the refugees I met in North Kurdistan in March 1996. I’ve wondered, tearfully, many times what happened to them, if any survived…I remember especially the barefoot boy who fell in the cold mud and his poor mother who didn’t have water to wash him or heat to warm him.


chatting at the end

chatting at the end

I read that part of the book to the Vancouver community. When I finished, a number of people came to talk.

“I lived in one of those tents for 4 years.”

“My father was killed, my brothers died in jail…I am the only one left.”

“I was Peshmerga, 8 years.”

chatting at the end¬†“I was tortured every day for 45 days.”

They are miserable words, but to me, to see so many people who had survived, who had made it to Canada…well for me, it was an affirmation of life. I hadn’t been able to imagine how ANYone could IMAG0676¬†survive the desolate situation I witnessed.

I also read about the wedding- a foreigner finding her way through 3 days of rituals and celebrations- and the audience laughed out loud at her efforts and observations.

A few people told me they had both laughed and cried in the 30-minute reading. What a joy for a writer to see the impact her words have made! And I was reminded again of the emotional openness and honesty of this community- men who can come up to me with tears in their eyes and say what they are thinking or remembering. I have said it before: The Kurds are stunningly courageous people in so many ways.

I remember sometimes resenting that my evenings, weekends, holidays were spent in isolation, indoors, working on a manuscript. I didn’t know if it would ever be read by anyone but me. I wondered sometimes if I was wasting years of my life. Other times, there was nothing more important than keeping my promise, nothing more beautiful than the polished words that I touched and touched and touched again. I did dare to dream it would be appreciated…and this past weekend that dream came true.

Ava's reading

Ava’s reading

Ava Homa read from her fascinating collection of short stories Echoes from the Other Land, Avan Ali read poetry in Kurdish and the host Nassir gave a stirring speech. We ended the afternoon with singing by Nadia- a Kurdish singer. After the strain of travelling and the tension of speaking, that music was a release. Nadia’s voice roused the joy in us all and as we clapped along I watched for who would dance first.¬† It was a group of men at the back. They formed a chain and snapped the handkerchief. I attached myself to the chain and danced with pure exaltation.

With all of my heart- thank you Shwan and Yvonne, Ava and Shaima, Aras and Sewar, Taban (who gave me flowers before I even read and who had never met me before), Jeff and all of the beautiful people who shared their Sunday with me.

Thank you to Kurdish House for the plane ticket and the roof over my head!

Shwan, Laurie, Yvonne

Shwan, Laurie, Yvonne

2 thoughts on “Reading in Vancouver for Kurdish House.

  1. Dear Laurie
    We are glad to hear that we have made your day on May 18 in Vancouver .The Kurdish nation as a whole will embrace you if they read your amazing book ( The word not spoken ) . Because you have decided to be not only a friend to our nation which is referred to as the nation with ( No friends but the mountain) by John Bulloch and Harvey Morris , but their Anglic human rights advocate. I do not know a single kurdish member who has not been a refugee at least for a few months in his lifetime . But the kurdish refugees you met in 1996 in northern kurdistan were the most desperate ones .If you learn about the Anfal campaign , you will decide to write your second novel about the 182000 kurdish people who were shot and buried in mass-graves ,only because they could not flee from their villages. Thanks again for becoming our friend.

    • and my thanks to you and the Kurdish community who have warmly welcomed me for the second time in my life…and really, who have taught me so much about community.

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