While the CBC studio was devoid of book loving spectators, it was full of discussion, passion, strong personalities… and 5 great books! Canada Reads is a wonderful event that is part game show and part literary event which gets Canadians reading and supports Canadian authors. Does the best book win? Well, it depends who you ask, but in the end, all the books win with exposure, discussion and media attention which is focusing on some of the struggles Canada is facing in 2020.
There was no shortage of discussions about the books, the panelists and the debates on social media. It seems the people forget that the authors, panelists and the great team at CBC are individuals with feelings and have invested their time, energy and passions into their books, the debate and this “title fight”.
The 2020 books included:
As always, it was an eclectic collection of books including 2 memoirs, 2 novels and 1 collection of short stories.
Small Game Hunting came with a trigger warming that “this might hurt, be brave” – and it certainly did but it told a fictional tale of struggle in the backdrop of a find dining restaurant in Newfoundland, with an order of misogyny, substance abuse, poverty, physical and sexual abuse. This book was a challenging read, I read the beginning 3 times but it was well worth it and somehow seemed easier to read when I kept the author’s voice in my mind!
From The Ashes was an eye opening memoir of Jesse Thistle’s sad experience being in foster care, living with his grandparents and getting into drugs with led to addiction, homelessness, incarceration and further abuse. I was so glad to know that he had lived through many of these challenges and was now a scholar as I read through the terrible situations that he experienced.
Son of a Trickster was a coming of age story filled with the magical realism of indigenous peoples as told by the delightful Eden Robinson, who’s infectious laugh I have written about before. I have had the second book of the trilogy, Trickster Drift, on my shelf for far too long and need to get to reading it soon!
The second memoir (and winner of today’s finale), We Have Always Been Here, told the story of a newcomer to Canada who was struggling to be free to be herself as a queer woman, despite her strict Muslim upbringing. I can’t imagine being betrothed to a male cousin, yet knowing that she had a secret that was key to her being!
Radicalized was a collection of short stories touching on issues of race, pandemics and equality. It was slammed for being more American focused in a time when we may be hearing enough about the dysfunction to the south of us.
All were worthy competitors and although I would have liked to see Small Game Hunting and From the Ashes in the finale, all the books are winners!!
Canada Reads is meant to be a competition to bring Canadians together, to get us reading and talking but unfortunately it did take a negative turn on social media. Much of the controversy was about the gender divide. Some viewers struggled with strong, assertive women objecting to Akil’s poor choice of words saying that Amanda had an “axe to grind” but it is a debate. He needed to be called out and although it would have been nice for him to have more of an opportunity to defend his rational rather than being told that he was “mansplaining” but he was certainly not a victim! What I particularly struggled with was George Canyon’s reaction to his book being voted of… saying “girls, girls, girls” to a group of grown women (no female children in sight)! If this wasn’t bad enough, he compounded his patriarchal mistake by apologizing and trying to wipe away his misstep by saying he felt like the “dad”. Really? the dad to strong, adult women? I hope that his daughter helps him to see the importance of being careful with his words and gives him some important advice.
I have struggled with the negativity on the CBC Canada Reads FaceBook page. What should be a great place to discuss, has become toxic and there has been a lot of bashing of the assertive, strong, female voices by a few men (who themselves have been called trolls) and worse than that, there have been women bashing other women instead of supporting women who were speaking up to the patriarchy! for those of you who might be on that group, let’s continue to add positivity to the site, for the benefit of readers, authors, defenders and the wonderful CBC crew who have likely spent countless hours preparing for the 4 day event!
I for one, am looking forward to the 2021 event and am hoping that CBC considers having a hunt for one book that brings Canadians together, that makes Canadians smile or that makes Canada (and the world) a better place! It is time to set the stage for some positivity after a year struggling through the COVID19 pandemic and a time to support and be kind to each other!
For followers, a few questions to ponder or to comment on:
Did you read all the books?
What was your favourite?
What did you learn about yourself through reading or listening?
What are you’d doing to make the world a better place?