Canada Reads·My Life in Books

5 books that Olympian, broadcaster and Canada Reads panellist Rosey Edeh loved reading

Edeh is championing The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk on Canada Reads 2021.

Edeh is championing The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk on Canada Reads 2021

Rosey Edeh is championing The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk. (Submitted by Rosey Edeh)

Rosey Edeh is a three-time Canadian Olympian, representing Canada at the 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games. She has since spent two decades in broadcasting, working at ET Canada, CNN, MSNBC and Global News. She is currently the co-anchor on CTV Morning Live Ottawa and is a member of Athletics Canada's board of directors.

Edeh is championing The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk on Canada Reads 2021.

Edeh says growing up, she was a "super-active" kid with a big imagination — and while she loved books and writing stories, she could more often than not be found outside engaged in physical activities such as playing with friends or riding her bike.

During her track and field career, Edeh says books became a constant companion while travelling to her various competitions across the world. 

These days, Edeh says that her appetite for reading has only grown bigger and loves getting lost in a good book. In fact, she says that books are needed now more than ever: "Books are a form of escape. They liberate the spirit." 

She spoke with CBC Books about the books she's loved over the years. 

Frying Plantain by Zalika Reid-Benta

Frying Plantain is a short story collection by Zalika Reid-Benta. (House of Anansi Press)

"I read this about a year ago. I've lived and spent a great deal of time in Toronto's Little Jamaica neighbourhood. Little Jamaica holds a special place in my heart. 

"I've never been to Jamaica, but it's got a strong presence in this world. And for the first time, I get to read a book about this young girl, Kara, who is oscillating between being Canadian and Jamaican. She was born in Canada, but she's got a strong Jamaican mom and grandmother. The Jamaican culture is alive and so vibrant. It's such a beautiful, vivid, real tale. 

The Jamaican culture is alive and so vibrant. It's such a beautiful, vivid, real tale

"I care about Kara like I care about Little Jamaica. I want Kara to win. I knew exactly what Kara was speaking of when the book depicts streets such as Marlee Avenue and Eglinton Avenue — I was there. The book is talking about the Jamaican patty shop around the corner. 

"When I was growing up, I would never have found a book like this. I never even dreamed that anyone would write a book like this, because the Canadian ideal was essentially a Margaret Atwood or a Mordecai Richler book. Those author's books are beautiful and they're powerful and amazing — but I always wondered when someone would write a book that I could intrinsically relate to.

"I'm of Nigerian heritage — my parents are from Nigerian and I grew up in England. A lot of people like me grew up with those dual identities. When I went to high school, my friends who were from Jamaica, were so proud of Jamaica, so proud of the culture. To read that in a book was very powerful and it was beautiful. I had so much fun reading it."

Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan

Esi Edugyan won the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize for Half-Blood Blues. (Courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers)

"I remember I was in a bookstore and this book was so prominently placed. I loved the image of the record on the cover and what drew me to it was her last name: Edugyan. I knew that the name was West African and I picked it up. And I was like, 'What's this?' 

I was fascinated by her attention to detail and it blew me away.

"I'm a big lover of music. I produced and directed a documentary on Oliver Jones titled Mind, Hands, Heart just a couple of years ago. I'm a big lover of jazz. It's an art form that was created by African Americans and came from the blues and bluegrass, and from these incredible Africans who came to the U.S. and had to endure hell yet created this beautiful art form.

"Edugyan takes jazz and she puts it on paper. It's set in 1940s Paris and these musicians who are stuck there endure issues around race and racial hatred and they have to navigate through that. 

"It was spellbinding. It was so powerful to me. I was fascinated by her attention to detail and it blew me away."

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

The Book of Negroes is a novel by Lawrence Hill. (CBC, HarperCollins Canada)

"I read this book three times. I actually met Hill and got him to sign a copy for me.

"The character Aminata Diallo will live forever. She is real and she will never die. She went through hell — and I don't particularly enjoy the depiction of slavery, torture, selling babies and absolute barbarism against a black body. 

"What I do is try to separate my emotions from the horror, especially if you're going to build up a character that is bigger than life. She is a God, that's what she is to me. She's my rock.

It reminds me that I am my ancestor's wildest dreams, and that's what Aminata represents.

"Sometimes in life, when I'm having a hard time with a particular individual or situation, I do draw on the fact that my ancestors went through that and we're all still here. It shows an incredible resilience. 

"This book is so stark, so in your face. It reminds me that I am my ancestor's wildest dreams, and that's what Aminata represents. She made an indelible impression on my soul."

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

American author and Nobel laureate John Steinbeck (1902-1968) wrote many classic novels, including East of Eden, The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

"Was Steinbeck possessed? Because what kind of epic novel is this?

I read that book a long time ago and then just read it again. I was just floored by its beauty.

"The book is set in the abject poverty of the Midwest. Through that, and through this family, there's grace and there's a timelessness to this story. I read that book a long time ago and then read it again. I was floored by its beauty."

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Ralph Ellison is the author of Invisible Man.

I've read this book at least three times. It is an absolute treasure; it's a gem, it's perfection, it's brilliance.

You want to take in its brilliance and really hang on every word.

"I can hear music when I read it. When I read the words I can hear a humming in my mind — it's lyrical and it's gorgeous and poignant. It's such a masterful display of literary genius. But you've got to be ready to read this book. You want to take in its brilliance and really hang on every word. Don't be distracted."

Rosey Edeh's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

The Canada Reads 2021 contenders

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