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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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!!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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!!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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!!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga

Seven Fallen Feathers is a book that ALL Canadians need to read. The book tells the story of seven students who moved to Thunder Bay to attend high school and died. It also describes the impacts and experiences of systemic impacts of colonialism, residential schools and generational trauma.

Here are excerpts of a slide deck with the information that was discussed at an office book club that I lead. it has details about the seven students, the communities that they came from and the generational impacts of residential schools.

Seven Fallen Feathers remembers these seven students who were loved, had much potential and had travelled up to 500 km away from their families just to attend secondary school which was not available in their own communities. Some of these communities were only accessible by flight or winter roads. Imagine the culture shock to move away from your families to board with other people, not having ever seen a street light or been to a city. Rest In Peace:

  • Kyle Morrisseau
  • Jordan Wabasse
  • Curran Strang
  • Jethro Anderson
  • Robyn Harper
  • Reggie Bushie
  • Paul Panacheese

It is important to know you province and country, I challenge you to learn about First Nations communities in Ontario:

Did you know that there are 133 First Nations Communities in Ontario?

Did you know that there are 630 First Nations Communities in Canada?

It is important to learn more about the communities in Canada. Here are a couple slides to share the beauty of Mishkeegogamang First Nation.

As part of our learning, we also learned more about the legacy of generational trauma from Indian residential schools.

Did you know?

  • An estimated 150, 000 children attended residential schools
  • 6000 children are estimated to have died
  • 130 schools were across Canada from 1831 to 1997
  • The Mohawk Institute in Brantford was open in 1831
  • The Gordon residential school was the last one to close in 1996
picture from the Woodland Cultural Institute website

You can take a virtual tour of the Mohawk Institute for a donation to the Save the Evidence campaign. It is a heartbreaking walk through the building with stories told by survivors. I am thankful that my children have spent time learning at the Woodland Cultural Centre on school trips as this did not happen when I was in elementary or secondary school.

Tanya’s book also shares the resilience of communities that had already lost so much, coming together to search for the students, to support each other through the inquest and celebrates the art of Norval Morrisseau, Christian Morrisseau (see the book cover) and Kyle Morrisseau. It is a great reminder to check out the beautiful art.

https://www.aci-iac.ca/art-books/norval-morrisseau/biograp

I have read Seven Fallen Feathers twice. As we read the news of the discovery of bodies on the grounds of residential schools across Canada, I think of what I have learned from Seven Fallen Feathers. It is so important to listen and learn so if you have not read this book, I would recommend it. It is a difficult read but readers have the privilege of putting it down, taking a break unlike these students and their families who cannot take a break.

Tanya Talaga and I at the FOLD Festival

Have you read Seven Fallen Feathers? If so, what are your take aways?

What books have you learned from?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Don’t just “read the North”, learn from some amazing Indigenous authors. Post 1: Richard Wagamese

Hi all, my blog has been dormant as life has been busy and although I have been reading, I have just been adding brief reviews to my Goodreads account. Today, I need to speak up and share some of the books, written by Indigenous authors, that I have learned from over the past 5 years.  

It is now a time to learn more about the devastating genocide, loss of culture and generational trauma that is a shameful, dreadful part of Canadian history.  Growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, I did not learn about Indian Residential schools or Indian Hospitals.  I live along the Grand River, near to Six Nations yet learned nothing about the Mohawk Institute and had no idea of the specific plans to assimilate and eradicate First Nations, Metis and Inuit people.  

When I want to learn, I turn to books so I am choosing to share some beautiful prose that will help readers learn about the dreadful past, racism and abuse but also about resilience, culture, love, relationships and healing.

Stories are a starting point to learning and gaining empathy, they help us to understand and open our minds.  They encourage further learning, am I going to share some of the books that I have read and would recommend, to others, to help understand the tragedy and the generational trauma that continues to reverberate in Canada.

Today’s instalment will highlight the late, Richard Wagamese, who is my favourite author. His stories remain with me and I am sorry that he is an author that I never had a chance to meet. He wove his own history into his fiction with his powerful words and openly shared his own story in his non-fiction books.

Below are links to previous blog posts discussing his books. Learn more by clicking on the titles below:

Medicine Walk

Indian Horse

One Story One Song

Ragged People

One Native Life

Embers

For Joshua

“See the important thing about our stories isn’t so much the listening, it’s the time  you spend thinking about them.  There’s lots of traditional thinking buried deep within each story and the longer you spend thinking about it the more you learn about yourself, your people and the Indian way” (Richard Wagamese in The Keeper’n Me).

What books have you learned from? What stories resonate with you?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Canada Reads 2020

Screen Shot 2020-07-23 at 10.07.15 PMWhile 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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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?

Posted in Canada Reads, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment