Canada Reads·My Life in Books

Devery Jacobs shares the 7 books that she loved reading

The actor and filmmaker champions Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead on Canada Reads 2021.

The actor and filmmaker champions Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead on Canada Reads 2021

Devery Jacobs is championing Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead. (Submitted by Devery Jacobs)

Devery Jacobs is an actor and filmmaker from Kahnawà:ke Mohawk territory. She is best known for screen roles on Rhymes for Young Ghouls, The Order, Cardinal and American Gods. She has also recently been announced as one of the leading roles in Taika Waititi's new FX series Reservation Dogs.

Jacobs is championing Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead on Canada Reads 2021.

Canada Reads will take place March 8-11. The debates will be hosted by Ali Hassan and will be broadcast on CBC Radio OneCBC TVCBC Gem and on CBC Books

Jacobs told CBC Books that she comes from a family where reading was a big deal.

"One of my earliest memories of books was reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? with my grandmother. I had memorized it and could recite it back to her when I was two," said Jacobs.

"Books are very much a part of my upbringing and really shaped who I am today."

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

A film adaptation of Harriet the Spy starring Michelle Trachtenberg came out in 1996. (Paramount Pictures, Puffin Modern Classics)

"I was a fan of the movie. Then I had learned of the book in Grade 5 — and loved the book even more. It was an integral part of my childhood. It helped shape who I was, and also who I am today. 

"It inspired the incessantly curious rebel in me. It also inspired me to become a writer and become a spy, so much so that I was spying on my neighbours on my dead-end dirt road in the rez, and writing everything down.

It inspired the incessantly curious rebel in me.

"There's a quote from the book that always stayed with me: 'There are people on the earth and I shouldn't go round with blinders but should see every way I can. Then I'll know what way I want to live and not just live like my family.'

"That couldn't be more reflective of the life that I'm living now as a queer Mohawk."

Matilda by Roald Dahl 

Matilda by Roald Dahl was first published on Oct. 1, 1988. (Carl Van Vechten, Puffin)

"This was another book that I loved as a movie, but then visited as a book. I loved all Dahl's books growing up, but especially Matilda.

"It was so much fun reading about this child prodigy. It was her abilities — her wits, courage and intelligence — that really stuck with me growing up. The message of the book is that no matter where you are in the world or who's around you or what's happening in your life, if you have books then you're not alone. 

This was another book that I loved as a movie, but then visited as a book.

"She's surrounded by books, therefore she's surrounded by her friends. That was something that I definitely felt a kinship with at certain moments in my life."

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples

Saga is an epic space opera/fantasy comic book series written by American writer Brian K. Vaughan and Canadian comic book artist Fiona Staples. (Image Comics, Brian K. Vaughan, Sergei Scurfield/Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons)

"This is my favourite graphic novel of all time. I love how imaginative it is. I love that despite it being a space odyssey with humanoid protagonists, it's very, very human. 

It captures what I love about storytelling.

"It's grimy, imaginative, hilarious, sexy and so much fun. It captures what I love about storytelling.

"I would love to see this adapted to screen."

Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson

Monkey Beach is Eden Robinson's first novel, published by Vintage Canada in 2000. (Vintage Canada)

"The genre of magic realism is very close to my community, my culture and my upbringing. I don't think that anyone can do magic realism like Indigenous people can, and especially when it's someone like Eden Robinson. 

The genre of magic realism is very close to my community, my culture and my upbringing.

"This is one of my favourite novels of all time. I love that she teeters on the line between science and spirit, but also the line between legend and truth. I hadn't seen it so perfectly encapsulated in a book before reading that."

White Oleander by Janet Fitch

White Oleander is a novel by Janet Fitch. (Cat Gwynn, Back Bay Book)

"I love messy mother-daughter relationship stories. I thought this was well written. I love the writing style and the different ways that the protagonist actually takes on different identities with every foster home she is in. 

I love messy mother-daughter relationship stories.

"This was representative of my 'teen angst' book years."

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is an English author. ( Jeff Spicer/Getty Images, HarperTorch)

"I was a huge fan of this book, it was incredibly imaginative. I love that it's grounded in the notion of belief. I especially love the character of Sam Black Crow. I had fallen in love with Sam Black Crow and I had been on my agent to keep tabs on the American Gods project as soon as I knew it was being adapted. In season two, I auditioned and landed the role, but it ended up conflicting with another project, so I couldn't make it work. 

I had fallen in love with Sam Black Crow and I had been on my agent to keep tabs on the American Gods project as soon as I knew it was being adapted.

"I remember being gutted because I loved Sam so much, because she was a bisexual college-aged half-Cherokee person. As a queer Mohawk person, I felt it was a good fit.

"I felt so gutted by this decision. I knew I had to play this character. I wrote a letter to the production explaining how much I had identified with the character Sam and how much I felt compelled to play her.

"They ended up sending it to Neil Gaiman himself, who read the letter and was like, 'OK, we got to make this work.' He tweeted about it and I was geeking the hell out.

"It was a serendipitous moment. That was like the first time that I had a novel that I loved that had a direct link to the project I was pursuing." 

Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq

Split Tooth is Polaris Prize-winning artist Tanya Tagaq's first book. (Penguin Random House, Peter Power/Canadian Press)

"Again, nobody knows magic realism like Indigenous people do. This book is a testament to that. I love that it was visceral, unflinching, beautiful and frightening all at the same time. 

I love that it was visceral, unflinching, beautiful and frightening all at the same time.

"I also love that it was so fluid and that it defied genres — that it was kind of memoir, but also poetry and fantasy and fiction and nonfiction. Her writing style in particular was something that really captured me."

Devery Jacobs's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

The Canada Reads 2021 contenders

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