CBC Sudbury hosted a Canada Reads Storytelling festival. We had lively conversations that explored how the lives of northerners intersect with themes found in the five novels chosen for Canada Reads.
We had a panel on storytelling, débuted the city's new poet laureate and gave you a chance to share your stories and poems.
Canada Reads, Sudbury
Half Blood Blues
Esi Edugyan's Half Blood Blues follows three black jazz musicians in Nazi Germany as they escape the country -only leaving their hiding places for their music. Sudbury's Joel Mackey knows about the transformative power of music. He's the founder of Sudbury Youth Rocks -- a group that helps young people stay out the justice system through music.
Cynthia was struck by some of the similarities between Kathleen Winter's Annabel and her own life. She discovered she's intersex late in life and spoke about that publicly for the first time at our festival. She works extensively with the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities in North Bay and Sudbury.
The Power of Stories
CBC Sudbury hosted a Canada Reads Storytelling festival. As part of that, we were joined by a group who think a lot about how storytelling applies to our lives. Monique Roy is the children's librarian at the Greater Sudbury Public Library. Dieter Buse is a non-fiction author and storyteller. Hoi Cheu is an associate professor in the English Department at Laurentian University and a bibliotherapist.
The Year of the Flood
The Year Of The Flood by Margaret Atwood is the second in a trilogy that looks at a post-apocalyptic world where the population has been decimated by a plague. This book follows the lives of two women - Toby and Ren as they try to make their way through this new reality.
Mairi Best is a woman who understands what it is like trying to make people see that things are changing. She's a scientist in Sudbury and was one of the first people who tried to raise awareness of the acidification of the oceans due to climate change. She is an ocean scientist and adjunct professor at Laurentian.
Tom Leduc, Poet Laureate
Even Sudbury City Hall knows the value of poetry. In 2010, council decided it would find a poet laureate to represent the community and its stories. Roger Nash was the first followed by Daniel Aubin. Now Sudbury has a third poet laureate - Tom Leduc.
The Orenda by Joseph Boyden has been seen by some as an alternate re-telling of Canada's history - from the perspective of the First Nations.
Perry McLeod-Shabogesic has spent his life learning the history and stories of his people. He's the director of Traditional Programming and Community Initiatives with Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre in Sudbury.
On Friday night, we hosted a live forum at the South End branch of the Greater Sudbury Public Library where people shared stories based on the five books. As part of that, we had interactive rooms to encourage people to expressive their creative side through poetry and writing. The CBC's Jenifer Norwell talked with some of the participants to see what they were working on.
One of the novels featured this year is Rawi Hage's Cockroach. The novel explores the main character's struggle with alienation, homesickness and the cold as he immigrates to Canada. These are all themes that resonate with Justine Gogoua. She's an immigrant from the Ivory Coast who came to Canada in 1994. She now lives in North Bay.
Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
Claire Zuliani is the Manager of Libraries and Heritage Resources at the Greater Sudbury Public Library. She is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario’s Library and Information Science Program and has worked in libraries for over three decades.
Half Blood Blues tells the story of three black jazz musicians who live in Berlin in the 1930’s during the rise of the Third Reich. This is a story about the nature of human relationships as it is portrayed by these men: bass player, Sid Griffiths, drummer, Chip Jones and trumpet player, Hiero Falk. Within the story, we explore the frailty of human nature and the complexities of friendship. Sid and Chip are childhood friends who grew up together in Baltimore, and while their relationship has never been easy, especially from Sid’s point of view, their friendship endures throughout their lives. Sid shares a much different relationship with Hiero – one that is fraught with jealousies and resentments especially when both men find themselves attracted to the same women. Amidst these complications and the onset of World War II, Hiero is arrested by the Nazi’s and presumed dead until some 50 years later when Sid and Chip discover that Hiero survived the concentration camps and is living in Poland and the plot continues from there.
Author Esi Edugyan has masterfully woven together the many threads of this story together. Although her characters are flawed in one way or another, the reader feels a certain sympathy toward each of them somewhere along the way as the story unfolds. In the end, the reader does not root for any one character, but rather hopes that through it all, their friendship will survive.
Cockroach by Rawi Hage
Brian Harding is the acting Virtual Librarian at the Greater Sudbury Public Library. His area of specialization is technology, but he is also a passionate reader of fiction and non-fiction and an aspiring writer.
Cockroach stands out for its dark and often absurd depiction of the underbelly of the Canadian dream. Hage shows us a side of the immigrant experience that rarely comes to light among the dominant narratives of our country. The book’s anti-hero protagonist, an immigrant of Middle-Eastern origin living in Montreal, initially attempts suicide and is saved against his will. The plot traces the character’s struggle to stabilize his troubled life in the wake of this event. The story ranges from his increasingly bizarre meetings with a state-imposed therapist to his awkward interactions with a broad cast of characters from Montreal’s émigré community. The cockroach theme pervades the book along with the pervasive cold of a harsh Montreal winter creating a deeply unsettling feeling for the reader throughout. It’s an unease balanced by the darkly humorous and often absurd tenor of the novel.
Annabel by Katheen Winter
Jodie Gladman is the Information Librarian at the Greater Sudbury Public Library. She holds an undergraduate degree from Laurentian University, as well as a Bachelor of Education and a Master of Library and Information Science from the University of Western Ontario. When she is not in pursuit of a great read, she spends her time enjoying her family, dreaming of running a marathon and planning for springtime in the garden.
Annabel, like any good novel, is about many things. It begins with the birth of an intersex child in a community on the beautiful and remote Labrador coast. It explores the relationship between husband and wife, how it ebbs and flows over time and experience. It speaks of the love of a mother for a child, who is both hopeful for the son she is raising and mournful for the daughter she has lost. It describes the expectations that a father has for a son, and the need to nurture and protect. Most of all, it asks that the reader experience compassion and understanding for that which is different from the norm, for different "means a whole new way of being. It could be fantastic. It could be overwhelmingly beautiful, if people weren’t scared."
Join the nation in reading Kathleen Winter’s Annabel: revel in the rugged landscape of Labrador, immerse yourself in the rich characters, and reflect upon the themes of understanding, compassion, and individuality.
The Orenda by Joseph Boyden
Tammy DeAmicis has been an avid reader since she was a young child. She was lucky enough to find the job of her dreams in the library system shortly after moving to Sudbury from Fort Frances, Ontario. Probably best known in Sudbury for her interactive story times, Tammy is the Community Events Programmer for the New Sudbury and South End Libraries where she helps to plan and present programs to groups of all ages and interests.
Set in the 17th the Huron – Iroquois wars and the coming of the missionaries, Boyden gives us a new perspective on the early beginnings of Canada in The Orenda. Canadians have been raised on a European version of our national history and Joseph Boyden has added the First Nations perspective that we have missed out on. The novel is narrated by three characters: Bird, a Huron warrior, Snow Falls, an Iroquois girl, whom he claims as his daughter after slaying her true family, and Christophe or Crow, a French Jesuit missionary. It is a triad of hate, suspicion, and redemption. It is a multi-layered story of the blending, clashing and melding of different cultures and beliefs. The Orenda is the term used for the life force of all humans, animals and the world around us. Above all it is a story and a reminder of relationships and how we affect everything around us. "But there is nothing in the world that needs us for its survival. We aren’t masters of the earth. We’re the servants."
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
Anna Slusarczyk is a Circulation Assistant at the Greater Sudbury Public Library. She is an avid reader of Canadian literature who spent her childhood in libraries and decided to never leave.
This quasi-sequel to Oryx and Crake is an alternate retelling of a near-future dystopia. The perspective in this novel focuses on two women who live outside the higher class compounds. The reader is taken into the difficult day-to-day lives played out by the millions of “pleeblanders” who have failed to obtain a position within the corporations that run the world. Ren and Toby appear to be the only survivors of a mysterious plague that has wiped out the rest of humanity and now, they'll really have to learn how to survive.
The Year of the Flood is Margaret Atwood's vision of an eerily possible future where most of humanity has been wiped out. The most disturbing aspect of this dystopian vision is not the apocalyptic end of humanity as we know it, but the revelation of atrocities committed in the lead-up to it. Animal extinction, permanently flooded coastlines, corporate compounds filled with the comfortable elite, genetically spliced plants and animals and unusual weather patterns: Atwood forces us to look at our present selves and our choices with every turn of the page and makes sure we see the human and environmental costs of a society driven by profit.