It was inspiring to be part of the live studio audience of the 17th annual Canada Reads, also known as the “great Canadian book debate” and “the title fight”. It was terrific to meet up with May and with Rainey, a CanadianContent member who flew all the way from Bermuda with a bag full of Canada Reads themed mugs.
This year’s theme was the one book that would open your eyes and CBC Books has done a terrific job promoting and planning this event moderated by Ali Hassan (thanks Tara who was part of the CBC crew and connected with the CanadianContents group).
Each defender brought their own feedback, constructive criticism, praise and a sense of humour to the debate and the audience was not disappointed. Who were the 2018 defenders?:
- Tahmoh Penikett- defending American War is not only a science fiction fan but starred in Battlestar Galactica.
- Mozhdah Jamazadah – defending The Boat People is a multi-talented star and television host who has sang in Afghanistan and at the White house. She has been called the Oprah of Afghanistan.
- Jeanne Beker – defending Forgiveness and best known from Fashion Television.
- Greg Johnson – defending Precious Cargo hunts and photographs tornados and laughed that being on Canada Reads is “literally” a thrill of a lifetime.
- Jully Black – defending The Marrow Thieves is known as a queen of R&B and is a Juno-winning singer songwriter who not only showcased her book but also her big personality.
Each defender had a minute to describe their books and the audience got another chance to watch the trailers that had been posted online including:
- Tahmoh shared the relevance of American World as the country is currently facing a crisis, is more divided with evidence of the erosion of democracy and empathy. He feels that America has failed to reconcile with their past leading to apathy and to pain and suffering.
- Mozhdah feels that The Boat People helps readers to think of each refugee as an individual with a story. As a former refugee she felt connected with the book which “gives the refugee crisis a human face”.
- Jeanne – shared that Forgiveness is a tales of toughness and tenacity which shows that shattered lives can be rebuilt. As the child of immigrants she notes that this book “sheds light on a shameful chapter” of Canadian history yet shows that healing is possible as we pledge to forgive but never forget.
- Greg – championed Precious Cargo which he connected with as a parent of 4, with little understanding of kids with special needs. He shared that Craig takes the reader on his journey of understanding, coming to recognize that all kids have challenges.
- Jully -defended The Marrow Thieves, a book that rewrites the indigenous past and reimagines the future as it highlights chosen families and the voice of youth.
If you have not watched the debates, I suggested checking out the YouTube video which not only shares the discussion but if you hold on to the very end includes some questions and answers which provide additional insight.
In the end, The Boat People was voted off receiving votes from both Greg and Jully. It was clearly a difficult decision by the panel who all shared both highlights and criticisms of all the books. If I had to pick a strongest debater, i would chose Tahmoh who provided clearly articulated arguments sharing both praise and constructive criticism. Greg, like his author, seemed to take the role of “class clown” providing a bit of comic relief. Going forward, I hope that both Jeanne and Mozhdah become more assertive in the debates and ensure that they get their points across. It might help Jully to be more conscious of interrupting and bring additional strength to the content of her arguments rather than just a strong tone. Certainly the first day was when each defender got comfortable with the format of the debate and I am sure we will see more personality coming through as the finale approaches.
It was terrific to be able to ask the panel how they had prepared the night before for today’s debates and they all had unique answers:
- Jully – laughed that she prayed and did some preparation this morning
- Greg – had drinks with the author
- Jeanne – watched a stupid show on netflix to take mind off things and then started looking for quotes on forgiveness
- Mozhdah – flew to Vancouver and then to Toronto as she reviewed her notes.
- Tahmoh – reviewed the book and his notes before hitting the gym and getting back to the books
Another question was about strategic voting and all of the defenders denied this and agreed that listening and open minds were essential. Greg had changed his mind during the debates and Jeanne kept reminding herself of the theme. Tahmoh stated that he had not thought strategy but did admit that he wants to win!
It was interesting to hear the answers to the question about how each defender had chosen their books. Both Tahmoh and Greg had been given a couple books to read and review, choosing the strongest of the pair. Jully felt that her book chose her and noted that she had asked for a book that she might not pick out on her own. Jeanne read a couple before one resonated and Mohzdah was sent a couple of summaries before feeling a connection after reading the first chapter of the Boat People.
The debate was fast and ended on a high note when I won a kobo reader for asking the first question. I will think of my day at Canada Reads every time that I enjoy my kobo!
Tuesday is a work day, sadly, I will not be watching live but am not sure that I will be successful avoiding the social media which will reveal the second book to be voted off!