Correspondent Trent McClellan reviews Annabel


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Last year's champ returns! Trent McClellan will be our guide to the Canada Reads experience. Follow along as he blogs and tweets about the 2014 edition of CBC's battle of the books. His blog posts will appear on the Canada Reads website every week. Follow him on Twitter @Trent McClellan for his complete Canada Reads 2014 coverage. Canada Reads airs March 3-6 on CBC Radio, CBC TV and online at CBC Books!




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Good day folks! The Olympics are over and the Canadian athletes put on countless incredible performances. There was so much pure drama over the last two weeks and I tried to watch as much as I could. I had a pretty cool moment in Calgary as I was about to catch a flight. Large crowds of people were watching the women's curling gold medal game and cheered loudly as the last rock did its job. It was a proud moment for everyone and I'm sure many of you have similar stories. So, well done Canada!

Now it's time to talk about another dramatic competition: Canada Reads 2014! I have just finished reading the last of the books. Today I give you my thoughts on Kathleen Winter's Annabel. This novel gives us the unique story of a character named Wayne who discovers he was born intersex in small town in Labrador. Wayne and his family struggle with who he really is and who he ultimately wants to be. This book reminded me a lot of Lisa Moore's February. It wasn't just the Newfoundland and Labrador references, both books are also about that inner struggle to move forward in life to find happiness.


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Annabel challenges our connections to gender as well as the emphasis we put on gender in relation to our identity. Wayne's parents were instantly divided on how their child should be identified. His father, Treadway, felt that a choice had to be made and that his new child should be raised as a boy. His mother, Jacinta, seemed much more open to her child acknowledging both genders and saw advantages to possessing the traditional characteristics of both. Both parent saw Wayne's/Annabel's upbringing differently but appeared to base the decision on a cocktail of love and confusion. What does a parent do in that situation? Did they you have to choose? Will the world embrace this unique child?

You really feel for Wayne/Annabel. Trying to come to terms with your identity both physically and emotionally must be an incredibly tough journey. Attempting to forgive your parents for keeping the most vital of secrets must be a feat that challenges the greatest resolve. Wayne/Annabel consequently carried shame like a backpack throughout his/her life as his parents' deception implied it was something to be ashamed of. The reader feels the weight of social stigma and the endless confusion Wayne/Annabel endures. The desire to be accepted completely was a journey that surpassed those of Treadway's into the Labrador wilderness. The role of the parents in this book was important because I think they represent a large contingent of people who don't mean to discriminate, judge, or ignore the reality of sensitive situations. They were simply two normal people who found themselves at a crossroads that neither saw coming. Parents want their child to have the least amount of obstacles to happiness and acceptance but the means of fulfilling that intention can be counterproductive. Children need truth early and often in life as well as the freedom to shape their own identity.

The ability to embrace what is unfamiliar to us can be illusive and often there is an instinctive need to "fix" things or make situations normal. But that is for our comfort, and not the comfort of the unique individual or situation. Sarah Gadon may try at ask her panelists to acknowledge how crucial acceptance is, especially with regards to the acceptance of ourselves. Knowing who you are while accepting all the components of your identity is the cornerstone of "self." That ability then applied to those around us creates a society that is open minded and inclusive.

Annabel will put up a strong fight next week and the discussions surrounding it will also be worth tuning in for. This story is a gateway tale for any discourse on identity.

Well that's it. All five books are in my head and heart. I honestly don't know which will be left standing at the end but they all deserve to be at the Canada Reads table. Finish your reading and pick your favourite as we buckle up for the unfit bear versus the fit squirrel...or something like that.



Trent is on tour! Check out his Live Once Comedy Tour in Ottawa, Toronto, Fort McMurray, Lethbridge and Edmonton during the month of March. Tickets are available through TrentsComedy.com.



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