Column: Reading 'Things are Good Now'

Things are good now tells poignant and thought provoking stories of immigrants and refugees to Canada from East Africa and the Middle East. From a female ex-freedom fighter struggling with her new reality of cleaning toilets and hospital sheets to a newly adopted young Ethiopian girl facing the horrors of her first Halloween in Canada, the characters all show the struggles faced by people trying not only to acclimatize in a new land, but also balance their intense longing for home.

While this book is a collection of individual short stories, there is a thematic connection that ties everything together beautifully. No character reappears in another story, but you can feel a connection between each tale through the tone and experience of the characters. At times this tone is a bit dark; however, there is a lot of hope in the stories as well.

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Many of the stories focused on immigrants and refugees from Ethiopia during the Ethiopian Civil War in the 1970s and 1980s. During this conflict, the traumas experienced by civilians, rebel groups, and military personnel alike aren’t easily forgotten when moving to a more peaceful place. Be it survivor’s guilt, or spending too long in circumstances of extreme stress, each character is faced with these hidden struggles while also trying to ‘fit in’ to their new home. 

Djamila Ibrahim is the perfect voice to share this experience. An immigrant from Addis Ababa, a former adviser for citizenship and Immigration Canada, and a masterful storyteller in her own right, Ibrahim brings forward the struggles one faces when trying to assimilate while also staying true to ones traditions, values, and upbringing. 

If you enjoy reading about the immigrant experience, this collection of short stories is a great read that hits close to home. 

Chelsea Iversen is a library technician at the Steveston Branch of the Richmond Public Library. She also recently enjoyed Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth and has Vicious by V.E. Schwab on her bookshelf for later. 

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