#8, 9, 10, 11: Professional Development Reads

The world needs more positivity these days!! As I hibernate, I have been enjoying these books with ideas for building relationships, enhancing conversations and collaborating for a world that supports people!

If I were to prioritize one book, I would suggest Conversations Worth Having which is full of ideas to build on strengths and promote positivity!

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#7 The Strangers (Katherena Vermette)

After reading The Break (for Canada Reads 2017), I have looked forward to another book by Katherena Vermette. Her words are powerful as she weaves the story of the Stranger Family. My favourite character became Cedar-Sage as I got drawn into the family drama and struggles.

The Strangers is not a “happy tale” but gritty and raw, dealing with addictions and mental health, yet there is hope as Cedar-Sage emerges from foster care, rebuilds relationships and learns about her family history.

Vermette is a brilliant, character-based storyteller who keeps a reader engaged until the end… it would be great to have sequel to follow Cedar-Sage and Phoenix as they move into adulthood.

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#6 Yes to Life (Viktor Frankl)

The powerful words of Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl, have stayed with me as I think of suffering, resilience and hope, but honestly, I had trouble focusing on these lectures. They are newly published in English and maybe my timing was not right for reading this book as I struggled to remain engaged with his powerful words.

If you have not read Man’s Search for Meaning, I would definitely pick that book up!

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5. The Real Mystery of Tom Thomson ( Richard Weiser)

Although I found the content interesting, I struggled through parts of this book. Starting with his family’s immigration to Canada in 1832, it read like a who’s who of Canadian art. It provided a timeline and thoughts of the many individuals that he connected with, which made it a bit disjointed to follow. 

Perhaps, it would have been more compelling if I had a greater knowledge of the artists but it felt like a lot of name dropping and facts, with less of the story of Tom Thomson. Perhaps it was not the book but my expectations (from the title) and that I was hoping to address the “mystery” of his death while the book abruptly ended and did not deal with the “mystery” of his death. Likely it is that this was not so much the story of his life but a list of events within his life.

The book does leave me looking for more. His beautiful paintings live on and the mystery surrounding his tragic death lives on.

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4. good food, bad food (Abby Langer, RD)

Sadly, I have read a lot of diet and “healthy eating” books over the years. I was a teen in the 80s thinking about my weight, eating salads and got caught up in the sugar free era of diet Cokes and sugar free yogurt. This book is a no nonsense, healthy antidote to all of the diet industry books and programs that have caused stress and unreasonable expectations for a generation of Canadians.

The book speaks to moderation, eating less processed food, keeping balance in mind and including lots of veggies. It discourages restrictive diets that makes us want eat more and it encourages readers to rethink their relationship with food.

This book is written by a registered dietician from Toronto and explains science in an easy to understand way with a bit of humour and a lot of common sense!!

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3. Robert’s Rules of Order – Newly Revised, In Brief

Robert’s Rules of Order is not the most exciting book to read. It is dry and very specific but it is a helpful read for anyone that sits on a board. It helps provide structure and fairness to proceedings and lays out direction for things like meetings, debates, bylaws and minutes.

It is a handy refresher for meetings and a resource to keep handy!!

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2. State of Terror (Clinton, Hillary Rodham & Penny, Louise)

For some reason, I struggled to open State of Terror, the first book club read of 2022. Perhaps it was my lack of focus in the New Year, competing priorities or just that I am not usually drawn to political thrillers… but once I got started, it was a compelling story with plot twists in the midst of political diplomacy, terrorism and mystery.

In true Louise Penny style, it felt like the reader was getting to know the characters and even Gamache made an appearance from Three Pines, Quebec!

I loved learning more about the genesis of this book from their acknowledgements at the end and had not realized that Penny and Clinton were friends. It is interesting to note that a number of character names are based on their own friends.

I am looking forward to chatting about this book… despite that fact that we will be back to virtual book club this week!

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1: Unreconciled (Jesse Wente)

Unreconciled is the first book written by Jesse Wente. As a reformed commuter, I enjoyed listening to Matt Galloway on CBC’s Metro Morning and hearing the weekly movie reviews from Wente. At the time, I had no idea that the Toronto movie critic was Anishinaabe and a member of the Serpent River First Nation. I had no idea of his childhood experiences of racism, growing up in Toronto.

This book is well-written, thoughtful and leaves a reader reflecting on privilege, truth and way forward “to build the country that Canada has always aspired to be – the one it pretends to be – one that recognizes the inevitable failure built into colonialism, one that recognizes Indigenous sovereignty as crucial to the realization of Canadian sovereignty“. Readers can reflect on his words that “This is the Canada our ancestors envisioned when the signed pease and friendship treaties: a collective of nations, living as they want, sharing the land mutually” and consider how we can all do our part to learn and move towards this vision.

Unreconciled is a book for all Canadians to read, it is one man’s reflection of his experience and he has been careful to reinforce that his experience is not THE Indigenous experience yet it does resonate with others.

Wente says that the way forward is through truth and I am committed to learning and sharing the books that make me think, reassess, reflect.

Unreconciled was a great first read of 2022 and I encourage others to read and reflect! Feel free to add your comments below!

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A Year of Books – 2022

I have taken a bit of a break from this blog… life has been busy BUT reading continues to be my source of pleasure, learning and source of reflection. My 2022 reviews may not be as comprehensive as past years but I am refreshing A Year of Books to share some of the amazing reads of 2022.

As we struggle through another year of a pandemic, we can share in some wonderful books, look forward to sunny days and focus on kindness, learning and a joy of reading!

Feel free to comment below, add suggestions and share your thoughts on the reads of 2022!!

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Today, I will reflect…

Canada Day has been celebrated by my family for many years. As children, my brothers and I would pile into the back of the Thunderbird and we would head to Port Dover for a parade, waving our flags and eagerly waiting on the sidewalk for candy to be thrown out from the floats or cars full of local politicians. When our children were young, we continued the tradition, decked out in red shirts and maple leaf tattoos, stopping for an ice cream on the way home. As a lifelong learner, the more that I read, the more that I understand about the past, the pride of celebrating July 1st has been tarnished.

Am I a proud Canadian? Yes… But… Is Canada a great place to live? Yes… BUT… it also has a dark past which I am committed to continue to learn about. All Canadians need to learn and understand the continued impacts of colonialism including the stereotypes and racism which my family and I have benefited from as a white settlers.

As many of you know, I generally celebrate Canada Day with Canadian books. I celebrate stories written by Canadians, about Canada, and have been reading diversely. Books written by First Nations, Inuit and Metis people have opened my eyes to experiences like residential schools, colonialism and the generational trauma that I never learned in school in the 70s and 80s. I am thankful to have read amazing fiction like the books listed below (click on the links below to read former blog posts about these books or follow me on Goodreads to learn about books that may be missing a blog post):

Reading this fiction started my learning and led me to some impactful non-fiction that is information that all Canadians must learn, understand as we work towards the goals of truth and reconciliation for a better future together including care and kindness instead of judgement. Here are some books to learn from:

These are not exhaustive lists but a few of the books that I have read and would recommend to learn more about Indigenous experiences in Canada.

You may wonder what I am reading today? After I participate in the Unity March to the Mohawk Institute (sign up for a virtual tour here), I will continue rereading Medicine Walk by the late Richard Wagamese. If you have not read this book, it is a must read (as is EVERY book written by this amazing author). It is my favourite book and one that I recommend to EVERYONE! Richard Wagamese was a powerful storyteller. His stories weave bits of his own experiences and evidence of his generational trauma which he also shares in his non-fiction books.

Here is my review of Medicine Walk from June 2016:

“The wisest ones got taught more.  Our people.  Starlights.  We are meant to be teachers and storytellers.  They say nights like this bring them teachin’s and stories back and that’s when they oughta be passed on again”

Medicine Walk, the 7th novel by Richard Wagamese, is a beautifully written, Canadian story that needs to be shared.  It is a quiet tale of loss, love, life and death taking place in the British Columbia interior through the eyes of a young boy learning about his family on a journey through the wilderness and through the past.  It is the coming of age story of Franklin Starlight who accompanies his estranged father, Eldon, to his final resting place.

Franklin learned the ways of the land from the old man.  He lived with him on the farm,  learning his work ethic, his quiet way of living and his understanding of the life on the farm.  Eldon appeared and visited at odd intervals, always struggling with his addiction to alcohol and his turmoil within.  The boy was curious about his father but the old man patiently left Eldon to tell his own story, in his own time.

As Franklin approached manhood, his father reached out and made an important, life changing request.  The pair travelled through the wilderness, their journey including a trip through Eldon’s past as Franklin learned about his heritage, about his family and about the mother he had never known.  The story is poignant and riveting and the reader can picture the view as Eldon’s history unwinds.

Medicine Walk will remain with the reader after the pages are finished.  The characters come to life and the reader can picture them in their mind.  It is a story where a lifetime of pain is dulled by addiction and stories are shared during a difficult journey.  It is a story that should be essential to the high school curriculum.

According to Quill and Quire, Wagamese grew up in Northern Ontario and spent his childhood in foster homes.  His Ojibway family could not care for him after their experience in residential schools.  He was adopted by an abusive family and it is reported that he ran away to a life of alcohol and drugs when he was 16 years old.  It was inspiring to read that the author “may never have become a writer, were it not for the kindness of a group of librarians in St. Catharines, Ontario, where he stumbled into the public library at the age of 16, seeking shelter and refuge from a life on the streets” (CBC Radio interview).  Wagamese drew on his own experiences with alcoholism and estrangement from his own boys when writing this gripping story.

Medicine Walk is the first book that I have read by Wagamese but it will not be my last.  He has a gift of storytelling and I admire his tenacity and ability to share some of his own experiences with the reader.  He is an example of the importance of reading, and how libraries are essential parts of a community responsible for sharing a love of books which open doors to the future!!

“It’s all we are in the end.  Our stories.”

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