Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Give a book to help homeless people this Christmas

As we approach the festive season many of us struggle to marry the idea of a homely, joyful time of plenty for some while millions of people throughout our world and within our society are displaced and homeless. 

'I'll Be Home For Christmas' is an anthology of stories with the theme of 'Home' in support of  Crisis, a charity dedicated to ending homelessness. Stripes Publishing has already promised to give £10,000 to the charity. In addition at least £1 of every book sold will go directly to Crisis.

 'I'll Be Home for Christmas' is a thought provoking anthology containing a wide variety of stories for young people all set around Christmas time. I'm honoured that my story 'Amir and George' is part of this collection alongside the work of these wonderful authors... 

Edited by Ruth Bennett (Commissioning Editor for Stripes Publishing) with contributions by: Tom Becker, Holly Bourne, Sita Brahmachari, Kevin Brooks, Melvin Burgess, Katy Cannon, Cat Clarke, Tracy Darnton, Juno Dawson, Julie Mayhew, Non Pratt, Marcus Sedgwick, Lisa Williamson and Benjamin Zephaniah 

Cover Illustration by William Grill
Diverse voices 
Each story offers a distinctive take on the idea of 'home' from the quirky to the heart-warming and surprising to the hard-hitting and poignant. All the stories got me reflecting and questioning.

What makes a home?
What makes a family?
How do you come home to yourself?
How stressful and crushing can prescriptive visions of 'family' and 'home'  be for many people especially at this time of year?     

'Amir and George'
My contribution - 'Amir and George' belongs to fourteen year old Amir Karoon who arrives in Britain as an unaccompanied refugee from Iraq. He has been in a British school for just one year when he enters The George Orwell public speaking competition in order to tell his story in his own words. 'Amir and George'' is set on the day of the finals which takes place just before the start of the Christmas holidays... but not everything goes to plan when Amir stands up to speak.... 

‘I am Amir Karoon. This is my story. When I heard of George Orwell competition, I went to my teacher Mr Shaw and I observe to him … my English is not so good, but I can tell you something about this subject:' If liberty means anything at all it is the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear...This is the moment when I ask you to switch off pictures you see on news, step sideways out of your everyday mind, like when doors slide from real world into dreams. '

When fiction and reality meet 
As I read through the stories in this anthology I realise that each one invites readers to build bridges between  real and fictional worlds Ruth Bennett explains in her introduction:
 'By using fiction as a means of raising money for Crisis and increasing the awareness of the struggles faced by those who experience homelessness, this collection bridges the gap between the real and the imagined.'
Ruth Bennett - Commissioning Editor

Last weekend I was privileged to sit and listen to a refugee man reading 'Amir' and George' to a group of men and women who wish to work on their own public speaking skills in the hope of gaining greater understanding of their experience of displacement in our society. It was an emotional reading but one of great warmth and recognition too.  

When I was writing this story I asked my character Amir the same question that his classmate Mo asks of him. Why would you put yourself forward to tell this painful story?  Who would want to hear it? No matter how difficult Amir feels he has to have his story heard.  In the words of Maya Angelou
"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." 

But who has come to listen to Amir speak? Who is the mysterious 'Reflection George?' and why has he appeared in this brightly lit grand hall festooned with fairy lights and a beautiful Norwegian Spruce?   

'I'll Be Home for Christmas' has a beautiful spine

Crisis at Christmas offers support,companionship and vital services and the chance for homeless people in UK to take up life changing opportunities all year round. To donate, volunteer or campaign for Crisis, visit   

YA Salon team up with 'I'll Be Home for Christmas'
7th December
Waterstones Gower Street, Wednesday 7th December 2016, 7pm.