Lawrence Hill says writing The Illegal profoundly changed him

Recently, prize winning author Lawrence Hill was part of a webcast with the Amnesty International Book Club. He spoke on many themes, including how writing his latest novel, The Illegal inspired him to understand refugees in a much deeper sense.

“Home is in your imagination,” shares Hill. “Home is a state of heart. For the person who can never go back to the place they came, the challenge becomes remembering where you came from, but also reconstituting what home means in your heart so you can find – hopefully – a measure of peace and love wherever you are.

“And this process of doing that profoundly affects other people,” he continues, “not just in a sense that a refugee coming to a place will be tomorrow’s Giller Prize winning author, or surgeon, or poet laureate or mathematics prof or bus driver, but also that people will fall in love – somebody will fall in love with that refugee and a whole new family emerges. There is a constellation of people who are created and rotate around that refugee. New homes are constructed in this new place.”

From a personal perspective of having written and toured with The Illegal this past year, Hill and his wife were inspired to sponsor a family of refugees.

“I know perfectly well that I can’t change the world, but I can certainly do some loving things in my own backyard,” he says. “I suppose I have become more involved in doing a tiny little bit to reach out to refugees as a result of writing the book, and maybe myself care more deeply in doing so…We will have seven people who have been assigned to us, and coming to us as a family in the next month or two in Hamilton.”

And Hill’s final words in this webcast conversation on hope, inspiration and creating change: “I think we as artists and activists need to always engage, and to do so fearlessly with kindness and with courage.”

The Illegal was a selection of the Amnesty International Book Club this year, and also won the 2016 CBC Canada Reads challenge. Joining Lawrence Hill in the webcast was writer Tracey Lindberg (author of Birdie, also nominated in this year’s Canada Reads), who had recommendedThe Illegal to book club readers.

To find out more, and obtain a free copy of the discussion guide for The Illegal, you can write to: Amnesty International Book Club, 312 Laurier Avenue East, Suite #316, Ottawa, Ontario K1N 1H9, or visit to receive information about the free book club, discussion guides and webcasts.