Canada Reads panellist Jeanne Beker and Forgiveness author Mark Sakamoto get to know each other
Mark Sakamoto's memoir Forgiveness is the winner of Canada Reads 2018. Fashion journalist Jeanne Beker defended the book, which tells the story of Sakamoto's grandparents' harrowing experiences of survival during the Second World War.
In the video above, the winning pair get to know each other a little better in a rapid-fire Q&A round.
Jeanne Beker: "Are you going to be listening to the Canada Reads debates?"
Mark Sakamoto: "I'm going to be screaming at the television saying: 'Jeanne say this, say that!'"
Jeanne Beker: "What's the best part of writing this book?"
Mark Sakamoto: "Oh for sure, the interviews. Both my grandparents were alive. The two main protagonists Mitsue Sakamoto and Ralph Augustus MacLean were both still with us. Ralph is still with us and so interviewing them for nights and nights were really some of the most sacred moments of my life."
Mark Sakamoto: "What was it about my book that connected with you?"
Jeanne Beker: "I found forgiveness to be so poignant. It just resonated with me so loudly because my parents are Holocaust survivors. My mother was born the same year as your grandmother. So they were living through the war years at exactly the same time, very different experiences, yet still total hardship. Their lives were totally taken and rocked and turned upside down, yet they managed to pick up the pieces and keep on going. There were just so many similarities, but most importantly, what resonated with me was the fact that your family always kept an open heart and encouraged the next generation to keep an open heart and the generation after that.
"And that's what was so inspiring about it to me and I think that's the only way that we can all really live, compassionately. We've just got to really be able to forgive each other and on a very big scale. It's really looking at life through that particular lens of forgiveness that I think I love so much."
Jeanne Beker: "What is the strangest thing that you've ever done to research a book?"
Mark Sakamoto: "On the Japanese Canadian side, I bought every single book that a Japanese Canadian person had ever written and the agent came with them in the backseat of an old 1986 Mazda. I felt like I was buying like illicit weapons or something — it was a weird transaction."
Mark Sakamoto: "Do you remember how your love for reading began?"
Jeanne Beker: "Without question, my love for reading began with my mom who took my sister and me to the library on a very regular basis and English was not my mom's first language. She rarely spoke English at all and certainly not a word of it when she arrived in Canada in 1948, but by the time I was born in 1952, only four years later, she learned a little bit about English and she always loved the whole process of reading and books. So she took my sister and me to the library and just read all the great stories to us and turned us onto all these great books. Then my sister, who is older, was very savvy. She would bring the most fantastic books home. I remember the first big gorgeous book that she bought me was a book of Japanese fairy tales. I still have it buried somewhere in a box in the basement. My favourite one was the Emperor and the Nightingale."
Jeanne Beker: "What do you hope readers take away from reading your book?"
Mark Sakamoto: "I hope they take away the fact that we can't be complacent. And as your family history also reveals, the world can change very quickly and progress is not always a given. And so we have to be vigilant about the kinds of resentments and angers and hatreds that fill the pages of forgiveness."