My Selection – Canada Reads 2017

What is the one book Canadians need now? I give my two-cents in this years Canada Reads 2017 debate.

Hey kids! The Canada Reads 2017 debate starts today! The debates will air on CBC Radio One at 11:05 a.m. ET, CT, MT, PT. They will air at 1:30 p.m. in Atlantic Canada and 1:35 p.m. in Newfoundland and Labrador. CBC Television will broadcast the shows at 4 p.m. local time.

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Me, getting excited for the debates.

I am happy to report that I have read and reviewed all the contending books this year and I am going to break down my predictions for the winner.Picking a winner this year was extremely difficult as the books that I enjoyed the most are not necessarily the ones that will hold the best during the debates. The selection this year, I would say, has been the most enjoyable shortlist for me since I started following Canada Reads back in 2014. Additionally,  I am going to do two rankings. One, for the book that best met the question, and two, for the books that I enjoyed the most.

Based on the books that have best met this years question: What is the one book Canadians need now?  Here is how I think it may pan out:

28364532The Arctic is the world’s air conditioner and if we cannot protect the Arctic than we are all doomed to face the effects of climate change. In terms of the cause, this books takes the cake for the question this year.This type of issue needs to be laid out for everyone to see. Just because you may not be suffering the effects of climate change at this time, it doesn’t mean that others are not and we need to do our part to get a handle on the climate change situation. However in terms of the readability of the readability of this book, I would rank it very differently. See below.

33540374This book fulfills in answering this question many times over with the multiple topics it breaches. This book outlines rape culture, which is massively important with our neighbours below us stirring the pot politically on feminist topics, as well as discussing and bringing light to the importance of how missing and murdered Native American women are being viewed and treated negatively and are not given the serious attention that their cause deserves. Additionally, the books ends with hope.

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This book analyzes our humanity, both the good and the bad, and focuses on the positives of: language, poetry/art, and companionship in relation to happiness and purpose. With the current political atmosphere, this book helps reminds of our need to connect and communicate, to ultimately respect the differences of others, and just how essential this is to our happiness as a species. As with the dogs in this book, hate only leads to more hate, hurt and tragic endings.

 

32436974This novel is an example of a successful dystopia. It’s not too far-fetched to be true science fiction and it holds enough truth in it to reflect the present. The author depicts a very real conflict between baby boomers and millennials with the new and old generations of those with eternal life as well as the disparity of wealth between have and have-not countries and the lack of understanding and general humanity that wealthier countries have on the issue. Despite the political differences and atmosphere currently this book serves to remind all Canadians that regardless of where you came from or what you believe, we cannot forget that we are all the same.

27280319Hwa is a fantastic character. I only wish that there were more like her: strong, smart, brave (all in the masculine sense too) and she can kick some serious ass.The topic of a company town, while important, especially in relation to how massive the oil companies and rigs are in Canada, I don’t feel it has the same potency as the other books.

However, if I could truly rate these books just on enjoyment, content and readability, I would have them as such:

Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis

Beautifully written with a compelling and enticing story, this book is worth all the awards and praise it is receiving.

Nostalgia by M.G. Vassanji

I would say this book is in a tie for the first spot on this list. I found the concept fascinating, yet almost realistic and appreciated the journey that the protagonist went through. Fabulous writing too.

The Break by Katherena Vermette

When a book comes with a trigger warning, you know you are in for something deep. This book discusses multiple women’s issues and it heart-breaking and heart warming. The characters really stuck with me.

Company Town by Madeline Ashby

While the main character absolutely kicked ass, the plot of the story was not delivered as efficiently as it could have been. Additionally, the meager romance was probably the most feels I have ever in reading something romantic. That is really hard to do to for me!

The Right to Be Cold by Sheila Watt-Cloutier

While the content is undeniably valuable I found this read uninviting and not as inspiring as it could have been. The books was more of a warning than a memoir and spent a lot o time on the nuances of committee meetings rather than the author’s more personal journey. However, it sounds like author is a pretty private person so I imagine that this is about as extensive as she gets in terms of getting up close and personal.

Let’s see how the debates go and see if I was able to pick the winner. Who do you think should win this year?

The Right to Be Cold by Sheila Watt-Cloutier

The Arctic is the world’s air conditioner and if we cannot protect the Arctic than we are all doomed to face the effects of climate change.

3/5 stars.
ebook, 263 pages.
Read from March 14, 2017 to March 22, 2017.

This is the last book I tackled in the Canada Reads 2017 shortlist. I happy to have all five of the book read and reviewed before the debates take place starting on March 27th. This is the one non-fiction submission in the shortlist and while it was not my favourite book the content of the book is a warning that we should all heed.

Sheila Watt-Cloutier was born in Kuujjuaq, Nunavik to an Inuk mother and a white father. Her book recalls fond memories of country foods included seal, whale and caribou, as well as dog sledding trips, and hunting. She was shortly shipped off to Southern parts of Canada as per government regulations for schooling. As she got older she saw how the environmental and cultural changes were taking a massive toll on the Inuk people. Their whole life was be altered against their will and they were not adapting to the changes well. After failing to become a doctor, Sheila became involved locally and internationally in helping improve the way of life for her people. While not initially meaning to be an environmentalist, it became clear that the biggest problem facing her people was climate change.

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs), from around the world settle and find their way to the coldest points on earth. These pollutants poison animals and contaminate the food the the Inuks eat which inadvertently poisons them. Climate change is a real and is being seen in Arctic first. The Arctic is the world’s air conditioner and if we cannot protect the Arctic than we are all doomed to face the effects of climate change. Sheila’s book is memoir, but it is really more of warning of what is to come if we do not take action. She goes through heartbreaking details of the suffering that her people have had to endure at the selfishness of others and is looking for justice and help, not only for her own people, but to ensure that the rest of the world is protected.

Shelia has been given numerous awards and accolades for her work, including a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 along side Al Gore. For a full list of her awards and honours, click here.

The information in this book is undoubtedly valuable and of extreme importance, however I didn’t sign up to read and poorly delivered essay full of committee meeting details. Portions of the book became tedious with this type of detail and detracted from the important message that Sheila was trying to portray. As an editor, I would have focused on the emotional specifics of Sheila’s upbringing and the outcomes of the current climate situation for the Inuks. While it is important to recognize the extensive councils and impacts that Shelia has had, her novel is bogged down with political nuances that don’t add to her cause.

Is this “the is the one book that Canadians need now?” In terms of the cause, absolutely. This type of issue needs to be laid out for everyone to see. Just because you may not be suffering the effects of climate change at this time, it doesn’t mean that others are not and we need to do our part to get a handle on the climate change situation. However in terms of the readability of this book, I would say no.

I would still recommend this book for anyone that doubts or needs more information about climate change and especially for those who have little understanding of the ways different people live their lives.

The Break by Katherena Vermette

A story of strong women on the path from trauma to recovery.

But even in sleep, her ghosts all hunt her down, wanting her to look at them, remember them.”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 269 pages.
Read from March 8, 2017 to March 14, 2017.

Huzzuh! I am nearly done all the shortlisted Canada Reads 2017 books. I think is one of the best selections of books in the last few year (I have been following since 2014) and I know that it is going to be hard for me to select my favourites for the winner. At the rate I am reading I will have all the books read and reviewed before the debates kick off so I will post my thoughts on what I think the top five should be.

It’s winter in Winnipeg and during one cold night a Métis mother named Stella looks out her window to witness a violent assault taking place. Afraid for herself and her children the only thing she can do is call the police. From here the story shifts between narrators, all of whom are connected somehow to the victim of the assault. From the Métis police officer who is not sure how to cope with his Métis identity,  to members of Stella’s extensive families, along with their personal histories and individual traumas and pain that they have all had to deal with that are unique to their heritage and upbringing. The narratives string together the real story of the assault that Stella witnessed outside her window and how traumas can change and affect a whole family or community of people overnight.

This book deals with so many tough issues. It discusses with rape culture, Native American and Métis specific cultural issues, as well as topics of identity, family and community. The Native American and Métis characters all struggle with perceptions from the outside world about their race and identity and they come from varying degrees of dysfunctional families. The dysfunction details the realities of growing up poor and different and the tragedies of those that are stuck within a rigid system of expectations.

The women in the book have all dealt with one trauma or another and are intensely strong and resilient, making the book ending overwhelmingly positive and hopeful. While there is no assurance that everything will end up being okay, it emphasises the support of family, community and specifically on other women and how essential that is to heal from the trauma the each individual has faced in the novel.

This book is a phenomenal contender for the winner of Canada Reads 2017. With the question: What is the one book Canadians need now? This book fulfills in answering this question many times over with the multiple topics it breaches. This book outlines rape culture, which is massively important with our neighbours below us stirring the pot politically on feminist topics, as well as discussing and bringing light to the importance of how missing and murdered Native American women are being viewed and treated negatively and are not given the the serious attention that their cause deserves. Additionally, the books ends with hope. That through supporting each other, our backgrounds, identities and communities that a better tomorrow can be attained.

The quality of the writing and character development is superb as the author depicts the realities of living with trauma. I would not recommend this book to people who are sensitive to trauma, especially sexual related traumas, as it does not spare details. It could however prove to be a healing tool for those that are ready to approach it. For everyone else, this is a phenomenal book of trauma and recovery.