Canada Reads Day 3

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The third day of the “title fight” left American War and Forgiveness still standing as The Marrow Thieves by Cheri Dimaline, as debated by Jully Black, was a knockout.  The fighting and biting was diminished, compared to the previous debate, and Greg Johnson jokingly started the saying that they had gotten “in trouble for talking over others” from their host, Ali Hassan.

In a heartfelt moment Greg spoke about the voting that took Precious Cargo out of contention and noted that he was the first panelist in 17 years to come from the province of Saskatchewan.  He generously shared that he had bought 25 copies of Precious Cargo to donate to his daughter’s high school.  He also plans to donate 25 copies of The Marrow Thief to a northern, indigenous school.  His generosity was a very positive start to the day’s debates.

For the remaining books, trailers were reviewed.  Tahmoh told his fellow debaters that he was planning to listen to counter their points in an effort to sway them.  Jeanne admitted to a sleepless night as she is so invested in Forgiveness which has not had ANY votes against it.  She seemed to feel a bit guilty about her seemingly (but denied) strategic voting against Precious Cargo.  Jully was visibly teary at the beginning and informed the crowd that today’s news had included the fact that the Pope is not planning to apologies to past residential school students.

In speaking of the future vs. past settings in the books, Mozhdah noted that she is not as into fiction but really likes memoirs and real stories.  Tahmoh described the United States as having more conflict and division than they did at the time of the Vietnam War. He spoke of a president that is not being a leader and who is not creating unity which is why American War resonates with him.  Jully spoke of not knowing where we are going until we look at the past and lauded the crowd of youth who are empowered through social media.

Ali asked the debaters how important for a book to be enjoyable.  Mozhdah said that until these books she would only have chosen books to enjoy, not so much books that would teach her about life.  She noted that American War was difficult and took her 14 days to finish.  Greg disagreed and feels reading is about enjoyment and encouraged the young crowd not to think that the world is a horrible, negative place.  Jully highlighted that her imagination was sparked through The Marrow Thieves.  Tahmoh felt that if we were to limit books to those that were enjoyable, we would be missing so much information and that hearing the truth is important so that we don’t repeat cycles of the past.  He referred to Romeo Dallaire’s book, Shaking Hands with the Devil which is a very difficult book to read but a book that he recommended to all Canadians.  Jeanne spoke about reading choices being dependent on where you are in life, how much time you have and how many other things you do in your life to build your soul.  She wants to enjoy the read, choose stories that resonate and help her get to her next level and be the best person she can be.  This is a great question and one that would be very interesting to discuss at a book club.

Other CBC hosts provided voiceovers to support one book and then the panelists were asked about which character was most compelling.  The characters identified were:

  • Sarat (American War) as her story seemed real yet Mozhdah spoke of her story being the thread that resonated as she “forced herself” through the book.
  • Mark Sakamoto (author of Forgiveness) as he described his grandparents journey and the lessons he learned that helped him deal with his mothers addiction.
  • Frenchie and his brother (The Marrow Thieves).
  • Ralph MacLean – Mark’s grandfather who was an eyewitness and lived to tell this story and had the openness of heart to embrace his daughter’s love of a Japanese man despite his experience in a POW camp.

The panelists debated whether fact or fiction was better at highlighting truths discussing empathy and the effectiveness of fiction followed by each panelist providing a final comment:


  • Tahmoh reiterated American War is a book about truth and that there is a vicious pattern of hiding unfortunate truths which need to be heard.
  • Jeanne shared that Forgiveness is based on being an eyewitness to a dark chapter in history and is about expanding the future by forgiving the past.  It is about moving forward and healing the self before you can heal the world.
  • Jully simply started to sing John Lennon’s Imagine.

The voting today removed The Marrow Thieves with 3 votes for it and 2 votes for American War.  Interestingly Forgiveness has received NO votes in the first 3 days.  Today was calmer without interruptions and panelists talking over each other.  Each debater had the time to share their thoughts.

What will happen on the final day?  Who knows?  It is a game show crossed with a book contest and anything can happen.  My hope is that American War will be voted off and Forgiveness will be the one book that will open the eyes of Canadians.  Regardless, it will be a fun day to be in the studio audience as a part of the CanadianContent contingent.

On the live feed, there was an opportunity for question and answers which shared some great insights:

  • Jeanne appreciated having a platform to change hearts and minds and to open a window to new possibilities.
  • All the books are winners to be chosen for the show.
  • Being a panelist was both an opportunity and responsibility for Tahmoh who found it hard to critique the other books.
  • Appreciation for the CBC focus on indigenous programming.
  • Tahmoh’s mother is writing a story about her experience in residential school which CBC is interested in facilitating.
  • The panel feels that the young people should read both The Marrow Thieves and Precious Cargo.

A twitter question asked panelist what they dreamt about which elicited some interesting answers including:

  • Jeanne  had a dream about the CBC hairdresser doing her hair as “big hair”  and she had to go on the show looking like that thinking the 80s are back.
  • Jully dreamt of eating mexican food with her late mom.
  • Mozhdah dreamt about being unable to leave the Canada Reads table and other panelists  hating her for voting their books off
  • Tahmoh was busy fending off a pack of coyotes bin his sleep while he struggled to get to his son who was at home in a cabin.
  • Greg said he dreamt about Ali and then suggested they switch glasses which they did on the set.
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