Return: Why We Go Back to Where We Come From (Paperback)
A Globe and Mail, Hill Times and CBC Best Book of the Year
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to return to your roots?
Drawing on astute political analysis and extensive reporting from around the world, Return: Why We Go Back to Where We Come From illuminates a personal quest. Kamal Al-Solaylee, author of the bestselling and award-winning Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes and Brown: What Being Brown in the World Today Means (to Everyone), yearns to return to his homeland of Yemen, now wracked by war, starvation and daily violence, to reconnect with his family. Yemen, as well as Egypt, another childhood home, call to him, even though he ran away from them in his youth and found peace and prosperity in Canada.
In Return, Al-Solaylee interviews dozens of people who have chosen to or long to return to their homelands, from Basques to Irish to Taiwanese. He does make a return of sorts himself, to the Middle East, visiting Israel and the West Bank, as well as Egypt. A chronicle of love and loss, of global reach and personal desires, Return is a book for anyone who has ever wondered what it would be like to return to their roots.
KAMAL AL-SOLAYLEE is the author of the national bestseller Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes, which won the 2013 Toronto Book Award and was a finalist for CBC’s Canada Reads, as well as the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction. His second book, Brown: What Being Brown in the World Today Means (to Everyone), was hailed as “brilliant” by the Walrus magazine and “essential reading” by the Globe and Mail. A finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-fiction as well as the Trillium Book Award, Brown won the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing. A two-time finalist for the National Magazine Awards, Al-Solaylee won a gold medal for his column in Sharp in 2019. He holds a PhD in English and is director of the School of Journalism, Writing, and Media at the University of British Columbia.
"Return is the book I didn’t realize I needed until it arrived on my desk during lockdown. The dispossessed make up a nation all their own. Al-Solaylee explores what it means to be one of its citizens, and how strongly the call of elsewhere can unsettle us. This is an urgent, thought-provoking read with much to say about our future." — Esi Edugyan, Giller Award-winning author of Washington Black
"A contemplative work on the passage of time, the aspirations of the exiled, loss, and the complexity of return. A beautifully written, emotionally charged, and politically fierce work."
— Rawi Hage, author of De Niro's Game and Beirut Hellfire Society
"A very powerful book." — Matt Galloway, CBC Radio's The Current
"Where do you want to be buried?' is a question that may perplex many of us. Humane and perceptive, Kamal Al-Solaylee uses his own ambivalence about returning 'home' as a backcloth to explore issues of identity, belonging, citizenship and nostalgia. He deftly interweaves personal interviews with academic research as he considers what connects diasporas to their homelands. In the twenty-first century ebb and flow of populations, the Important questions he raises will resonate for many of us. This is an original and provocative book." — Charlotte Gray, author of The Massey Murder and Murdered Midas
"In a world awash with migrants, many are looking not forward but back, to homes, families and languages left behind, writes the critically acclaimed Toronto author. Al-Solaylee portrays the conflicted emotions of a diaspora of Irish, Basques, Ghanaians and others with grace and nuance, but never more evocatively than when laying bare his own yearning for war-torn Yemen, his birthplace." — Maclean's
“Return is an inquiry of the first importance because it asks, among other questions: Does your adopted home deserve you? Far too often the question is framed the other way around. Al-Solaylee’s work here is thoughtful, humane, and timely.” — Gil Adamson, author of Ridgerunner
"The great trick of Return is the way Al-Solaylee turns the migrant’s camera around from its customary position facing forward and examines the place that was left, the origin, the place that haunts her always. Such love, in these stories, and fear and trauma and ambivalence. The welcome is only the easiest first step of meeting new people and peoples. Understanding and comprehension require a different sort of effort and Al-Solaylee brings the reader to this effort with grace and patience. This is a gorgeous book." — Kevin Patterson, author of Consumption: A Novel
"A powerful dive into displacement." — Reader's Digest
"What's indisputable is that the global phenomenon of reverse migration has been historically understudied. Return dives into this world of tensions, longings, regrets, and acceptance." — Quill & Quire
"A book about the human condition, that condition in which Al-Solaylee provides a way into the complex tangle of forces that penetrate all human beings, everywhere: history, geopolitics, family affection, private yearnings, uncertain identity, and . . . a longing for home." — The British Columbia Review