Wab Kinew and Joseph Boyden talk Canada Reads


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We met the contenders for Canada Reads 2014 on November 27. Journalist, activist and hip-hop artist Wab Kinew is a panelist this year and he chose to defend The Orenda by Joseph Boyden.

The Orenda is the newest book in the final five, but neither Kinew nor its author Joseph Boyden are worried about that. After all, the story in The Orenda is as old as Canada. "It's a story about first contact in what is now our present day country between the First Nations people and the Europeans," Boyden said. "The history that I'm writing about is incredibly rich and complex."

Kinew believes that the issues in The Orenda are still relevant today. "By revisiting our history, we can see ourselves as being a nation which is more inclusive of indigenous people," Kinew said. "We might be able to start moving forward with reconciliation with indigenous people, which I consider to be the biggest social justice confronting this country."

However, reconcilation isn't the only issue at the heart of The Orenda. Boyden says the book "is dealing with some heavy hitting stuff" including "first contact, the environment, immigration, peace, [and] war."

Kinew agrees and believes that tackling these tough topics through fiction will allow people to engage more deeply with the issues. "When we see these conflicts playing out in the news or the newspaper, we're almost too close to them. We're too invested in the outcome," he said. "But because it's in a novel it's a bit further removed from our day to day. We're allowed to step out of our biases a little bit more to gain a broader sense of empathy. By recognizing each other's shared humanity, we can come back and have the discussions today that need to be had while understanding that we're not really that different."

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