So, let’s talk about it!
Have you been glued to your radio (or computer live stream) all week to hear the debates and the outcome of Canada Reads? I have, my reminder alarm beeped faithfully each day at 10:55 to encourage me to tune in.
I love that Canada has a annual radio event that gets people talking about books each year. And I love the passion and depth that the panelists bring to their on-air defences each year. And after four days of debate, the winner of this year’s Canada Reads? (I suspect you already know). The Orenda (M) by Joseph Boyden.
Expertly defended by journalist and activist Wab Kinew, The Orenda is a book that explores Canadian history through the stories of three main characters: Snow Falls, a young Iroquois girl captured after her family is murdered in a battle, Bird, a Huron elder who sees ghosts of his own story in the orphaned girl, and Christophe a Jesuit Priest who is among the earliest missionaries to arrive in the nations that will one day become Canada. The publisher called it “a visceral portrait of life at a crossroads”, Kinew heralded it as an important work for Canadians to read if they are to understand and reach consensus on issues of reconciliation with First Nations Peoples. Want to know more? Here’s a trailer:
Joseph Boyden was already a Canadian author to watch: with a collection of short stories and two previously feted books to his name, he has steadily been becoming a part of the Canadian Literary Canon – the Canada Reads win will likely introduce him to a whole host of new readers.
And what about the other books? A point that a was made over and over again this year in the debates was that each of the books is one that deserves to be read by more Canadians. The theme of this year’s Canada Reads was “the one novel that could change Canada” and the books included in the debate each focused on important issues that are facing our nation today. As a long time Canada Reads listener, I have been frustrated with the themes placed on recent years of the debate — I want just a good old fashioned book talk — but in the end, this year’s theme made for compelling debate.
The panelists each spoke of their books in terms of their literary merit, but also tied them to important issues of our time, and I think this could bring more readership to each of the books. Second place finisher Cockroach (M) by Rawi Hage was passionately promoted by comedian Samantha Bee, who highlighted the book’s focus on the alienation that is felt by many immigrants to Canada. Annabel (M) by Kathleen Winter was presented as a story that speaks to the heart of issues of sexuality and gender identity. Half Blood Blues (M) by Esi Edugyan, although a historical story, speaks clearly on issues of racial discrimination that exist today. The Year of the Flood (M) by Margaret Atwood is set in a dystopian future, but has important messages about the current (and future) state of the environment.
One of my favourite parts of Canada Reads each year is discovering new and interesting Canadian voices, not through the books, but through the panelists who champion them and this year was a particularly great year for this. Each of the panelists brought thoughtful comments and well constructed arguments to the table. After this year’s Canada Reads, I’m left not only wanting to read all of the championed books but to explore a bit more about each of the panelists. Actress Sarah Gadon is featured in a number of films and television shows in the library’s collection. Academic Stephen Lewis is the author of the 2005 book Race Against Time which examines the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Sprinter Donovan Bailey is included in a book called Footprints: Canadian Sports Stories: Summer. Wab Kinew’s passionate voice for First Nations issues can be heard in the documentary series 8th Fire of which he was host.
And after a week of heated and often very heavy debate, I think my first read will be I Know I Am, But What Are You (M) by Samantha Bee, comedic essays that I expect will be very different fare from what she was championing this past week, but which will undoubted have at least some of the spark and wit that made her a great panelist. If you missed the debates, you can catch a recap of the final (and lots of other juicy debate too) on the CBC website. The library has lots of copies of all the titles and we’ve compiled a list of them in our catalogue. Need more reading? The CBC has lists of further reading for each of the 5 Canada Reads books and there are lots of great Canadian and international titles there. But most importantly – what did you think of this year’s debates? Have you or are you going to read the books included