Book Review: The Boy on the Beach

By Deborah Mebude

By Tima Kurdi

Simon & Schuster, 2018


Review by Deborah Mebude


The Boy on the Beach is an intimate retelling of a family’s tragedy, one that woke up the world to the Syrian refugee crisis. Author and Syrian-Canadian Tima Kurdi brings to life the story of her nephew Alan Kurdi, the two-year-old boy whose poignant photo spurred many to demand action throughout the international community. When her nephew Alan washed up on a Turkish beach, the world mourned alongside the Kurdi family. Yet in the flurry to report on the event, details were lost, at times misconstrued, as media attempted to piece together the story of “the boy on the beach.”

In this book, Tima offers clarity, context, and, perhaps most importantly, the emotion that accompanied the tragic events captured in that September 2015 image. Tima gives readers a behind-the-scenes portrait into the lives her family had once known: a Syria full of harmony, love, and simple joys. She explores how Alan’s fate was not the fault of the Turkish government, nor that of the Canadian Immigration department that refused her attempts to resettle her relatives, but on a larger scale the fault of us all.

Through this story, one sees that the Kurdi family is not unlike others from Syria, or indeed any family throughout the world. Their hopes are like ours and have remained the same since before the tragedy: they want peace.

Understandably, Tima and Alan’s father Abdullah wrestle with deep regret; despair at the too-late response from the international community, and a sense that the refugee crisis is far too massive for any one individual to address. Still, with this important work, Tima sets an example for hope beyond despair, appealing to each of us to take action and stand up for refugees in Canada and beyond.

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