Book Review: The Lucky Ones By Anne Mahon

From The Catalyst Summer 2014

The Lucky Ones: African Refugees’ Stories of Extraordinary Courage
By Anne Mahon
Great Plains Publications, 2013

Reviewed by Ashley Chapman

Imagine Edward Snowden working at your local 7-Eleven. It’s not actually that far a stretch for those in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Anne Mahon’s The Lucky Ones is named for African refugees who’ve found safety in the prairie capital, but their stories turn the title on its head.

Really, the lucky ones are the long-time Canadians who now get to learn from newcomers in the book like the daring whistleblower journalist who initially sold Slurpees upon arrival in Canada. The lucky ones are those who have never had to leave family, home, and country and flee for their lives.

The book’s shocking first-hand accounts of survival will cause readers to bristle the next time they hear someone cast refugees as “fraudsters” or “just here to take our jobs.” And reading about parents who were forced to run for the border without their children — let alone their passports — will cause people to question the government’s dismissive terminology of “bogus” and “illegal” refugees.

While refugee advocates work to highlight Canada’s draconian refugee reforms of late, the newcomers interviewed by Mahon primarily expressed gratitude for the Canadian system. Still, the book could have described current policy reforms that may change that story for Winnipeg’s newer arrivals.

Also unfortunate was a painfully contrived first-person account written on behalf of a three-year-old girl adopted from Ethiopia. Including a chapter on international infant adoption in a book about African refugees is irrelevant at best and insensitive at worst, and it only took away from an otherwise valuable book.​

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