Continuing my attempt to read all the books in the world (or at least on my TBR), which appears to be continuing through June-September if you see my 20 Books of Summer post, here’s my second NetGalley read for May.* I am trying to keep up to date with NetGalley (and succeeding so far although June might be a little challenging), picking off older books in between, and I’m glad I read this interesting account of the Middle Eastern origin / Muslim population in Canada, written by a kind and humane man who obviously wants to do the best for his nation.

Dany Assaf – “Say Please and Thank you and Stand in Line: One Man’s Story of What Makes Canada Special and How to Keep It That Way”

(06 April 2021 – NetGalley)

Now, with the world as it is, it feels like history is calling us to either harness the power of our multicultural assets, socially and economically, at home and on the world stage, or be torn apart by our differences.

Assaf and his family had always led a happy and integrated life in Canada, his ancestors having come over from the Lebanon over a century ago. But although the book opens with a huge multicultural celebration of Toronto’s team willing the national basketball championship, it soon turns to the horror of his family’s persecution post-9/11, his Alberta-born parents told to go home and victimised by their neighbours (while, it must be said, other neighbours pulled together to support them) and then the wider situation with the police and secret services trying to infiltrate mosques with a constructed narrative around radicalism that they didn’t see in their community. But as well as discussing this division and its causes (mostly down to Donald Trump and his ideology’s ascendancy south of the border, as well as the divisions wrought by misinformation and fake news on social media) he does discuss both the theory and the practice of ending division and pulling together.

The story of his family’s and many other Lebanese people in particular’s arrival in Canada, settling in to become fur traders and merchants, was absolutely fascinating and something I knew nothing about. I was aware Toronto was a very diverse city, but not about the diversity across the country, and this was fascinating to read about. Assaf’s own biography is woven through the book and I particularly enjoyed his tales of his obsession with hockey and, later, his usefulness to his law firm of being able to represent Canadian countries in the Middle East, with his heritage and fluency in Arabic.

There were long sections about American divisive politics, competition law and social media which did for me drag a little, but are very important (I feel I’ve read a lot about divisive politics and the evils of fake news but it’s useful to have this all put down in a book). Things became more obviously readable when he described the Ramadan fast-breaking dinner for the whole of Toronto which he and his wife have been putting on for a number of years now, a lovely occasion to keep people together and learning about each other, and I liked that he didn’t skimp on showing the organisation it takes, too.

A call to action for Canada and for all countries, a kind and humane book that has a lot to offer.

Thank you to the publisher, Sutherland House, for making this book available to me via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

*My other NetGalley read for May was “Fit for Purpose” by Richard Pile, which I didn’t finish. It was a collection of advice we’ve all read a million times before (sleep more, eat well, a good/happy life has purpose) but also while the author reveals he’s a Christian in the blurb (obviously fine), he claims the book is for everyone and then, at least in the first two sections, after the usual, somewhat tired, references and robust use of Bible examples, explains how you can use the precepts under discussion to run your church/church leadership group. So it wasn’t really for me.