CBC Digital Archives

Miriam Toews on Manitoba and Mennonites

Since its debut in 2002, CBC Radio's Canada Reads has quickly become a popular and influential show, attracting huge audiences and driving up book sales. Each year, CBC convenes a panel of prominent Canadians to each pick a work of Canadian fiction and argue why their choice should be the book that all of Canada reads. The CBC Digital Archives brings you a collection of the animated and entertaining final debates, winner "reveals" and interviews with the winning authors of Canada Reads.

Miriam Toews' A Complicated Kindness is supposedly a work of fiction, but it sometimes seems more like a thinly veiled autobiography. Toews and her fictional heroine Nomi Nickel share the same small town Manitoba Mennonite background and many of the darkly funny observations on that culture. Toews put much of herself into Nickel, but in this 2004 CBC Radio interview, she separates the fact from fiction and offers many insights into A Complicated Kindness.

A Complicated Kindness was the winning selection for Canada Reads 2006. John K. Samson of the rock band The Weakerthans was the novel's advocate.

• The Mennonite faith emerged from a doctrine of the 16th-century Protestant Reformation called Anabaptism. Anabaptists reject the idea of infant baptism, holding that baptism is a sacrament for adult believers. Many Mennonites immigrated to the American colonies in the 1700s, but came to Upper Canada during the Revolutionary War after facing intense pressure to fight, which runs contrary to their beliefs. Seeking to increase the population, Upper Canada's lieutenant governor offered fleeing Mennonites cheap, arable land and exemption from military service, a promise that continued into the 20th century and through the First and Second World Wars.

• Miriam Toews' A Complicated Kindness won the 2004 Governor General's Award for fiction and was shortlisted for the Giller Prize.

Medium: Radio
Program: Sounds Like Canada
Broadcast Date: June 1, 2004
Guest(s): Miriam Toews
Host: Shelagh Rogers
Duration: 19:35
Photo: Miriam Toews by Carol Loewen/Canadian Press.

Last updated: February 9, 2012

Page consulted on August 21, 2012

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