Crooked Teeth is a queer Syrian refugee’s reconnection “home”

Sink your teeth into Danny Ramadan’s new memoir

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ILLUSTRATION: Courtesy of Yasmin Hassan / The Peak

By: Yasmin Hassan, Staff Writer

Crooked teeth is the young boy who swears he likes women. Crooked teeth are in the mouth of an officer staring back at you coldly. Crooked teeth is being the only racialized panelist discussing refugees. Crooked teeth is the wet sand on English Bay after a painful breakup. In Danny Ramadan’s newest work, Crooked Teeth: A Queer Syrian Refugee Memoir, incisors and molars take on a whole new meaning. 

Right off the bat, I knew this was written brilliantly. Syrian Canadian author Ramadan’s track record with his award-winning works, The Clothesline Swing and The Foghorn Echoes, further confirms his literary genius. 

The first chapter of this new memoir, “Truth,” explores the shift from writer to reader, culminating in an agreement between two people to bare each other’s scars. Expertly, he weaves the motifs of “crooked teeth, shy smiles, playful bites” into his writing as stand-ins for the deeper conversations of racial injustice. 

“I’m telling you these stories as I would tell them to a friend,” Ramadan says in the memoir. 

“This is my treasure trove of all of the images from my childhood that I will never have access to ever again. It feels like, in a way, those images are not just me trying to tell you about those places, but also me trying to protect them, to keep them for myself.” —Danny Ramadan, via CBC

Crooked Teeth retells his childhood growing up in Damascus, Syria. Slowly but surely, he realizes and comes to terms with his sexuality, despite his family, society, and government casting out any idea of queerness. Ramadan makes a point, however, that too often people in the west fail to realize that his home wasn’t always war and catastrophe, but that it was home first and foremost. 

This is my treasure trove of all of the images from my childhood that I will never have access to ever again,” Ramadan told CBC of his memoir. “It feels like, in a way, those images are not just me trying to tell you about those places, but also me trying to protect them, to keep them for myself.”  

He talks about his personal life amidst the backdrop of a degrading economy and the seedlings of revolutionary outburst in the 2000s. His journey takes him to underground networks of queer-safe homes, Arab Spring uprisings, imprisonment, becoming a refugee, and then rigidly settling in Vancouver.

Ramadan doesn’t skimp out on the finer things in his life. He celebrates the joys, finding his chosen family, and creating a meaningful career. He wanted to include these snapshots of his life in Canada because his story didn’t stop when he arrived here. 

“Arriving in Canada is a beautiful milestone. But it’s the beginning of a new life,” he told CBC. “I think the balance between what your life was before arriving and what’s life after arriving is what is important.” 

This memoir is beautifully written, with intense descriptions and comedic quips. It truly feels like a conversation between two friends. If you have the chance, pick up this book and give it a read. Find out the meaning behind those crooked teeth!

Purchase Crooked Teeth at storestock.massybooks.com.

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