Jian Ghomeshi is a literary guy. He regularly interviews authors on his daily CBC Radio show, Q. He hosts CBC's annual battle of the books, Canada Reads. And for the second year in the row, he'll take to the podium as the host of the Scotiabank Giller Prize, Canada's richest literary prize for fiction. But this year, for the first time, Ghomeshi went from talking about books to writing one with his new memoir, 1982. Back then, Ghomeshi wasn't the poised multi-hyphenate (he's also an accomplished musician) we see today. He was an awkward 14-year-old struggling to fit in, and was driven by two obsessions: David Bowie and an older girl named Wendy.
Being a public figure meant Ghomeshi could have written a standard autobiography. But he didn't want to. "It just wasn't me," he admitted to George Stroumboulopoulos in a recent interview. "I'm more energized by doing something creative." He wanted "to tell a couple of stories, maybe make some cultural observations" but it was only once he started writing that the idea he should focus on a single, pivotal year came to him. "I had this eureka moment," he said, and from there the book began to take shape. "It's about being a first generation immigrant kid desperately trying to fit in."
It's been 30 years since Ghomeshi was that 14-year-old kid and he's had a prolific and diverse career. But it's a career he never thought possible back then. "[I remember] thinking, 'I would love to be in the media somehow but it'll never happen because name is too funny and I look a little weird and my parents are from a strange place people call evil. So that is not an option for me.'" A lot has changed since then for Ghomeshi, for the media and for Canada as a country, and it's because of people like Ghomeshi's parents, who came here as immigrants, and Ghomeshi himself, who broke into the mainstream music and media industries. "Not only do I, in a strange way, feel a little bit less like an outsider, but I feel like if I am an insider, this is my country. This is why I stay here."