Canada Reads·In Conversation

Gilmore Girls actor Yanic Truesdale shares how he became a reader and the books that inspire him

The Canada Reads panellist and actor talks about the roommate who made him a reader and the books he loves best.
Yanic Truesdale is defending Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, translated by Rhonda Mullins. (CBC)

Yanic Truesdale is a Montreal-born actor best known for playing the role of Michel Gerard on Gilmore Girls. He's defending Suzanne by Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, translated by Rhonda Mullins, on Canada Reads 2019. The debates take place March 25-28, 2019. 

They will air on CBC Radio One at 11 a.m. (1 p.m. AT/1:30 p.m. NT), on CBC at 4 p.m. (4:30 NT), be live streamed online at CBC Books at 11 a.m. ET and will be available on the free CBC Gem streaming service.

Truesdale spoke with CBC Books about his life as a reader. 

What made you want to become a Canada Reads panellist? 

"I used to read a lot and I don't anymore. The reason why is because I have to read tons of scripts — and so now reading, for me, feels like work. But I miss that connection with storytelling when it has nothing to do with my work — just to trigger my imagination and connect with someone's voice. So I was like, 'Okay this is going to force me to go back to a habit that I used to love, which is reading just for the joy of reading.'" 

Were you always a reader? What made you become a book lover? 

"I wasn't always a reader. My roommate, the actor Geneviève Brouillette, made me a reader. We went to acting school together and we lived together at the time and she was raised by a mother who was reading constantly. Because Geneviève was reading all the time, I started reading in the apartment with her. So there's no question that she's the reason I'm a reader.

"She still reads every minute of every day. She goes to bed and she's reading a book, she goes to the bathroom and she's reading a book. I'm not quite like that." 

Do you have a favourite book? 

"One of the most profound books I've read to this day is the French writer Romain Gary's novel La Promesse de l'aube — translated as Promise at Dawn. This is the book for me. It's a love story between the protagonist and his mother and it's arguably the most personal book Gary ever wrote. The main character was a diplomat like him and resembles him in a lot of ways. Really it's about a mother's unconditional love.

"This is a spoiler, but throughout the book he is at war and he's receiving beautiful, intimate letters of encouragement from his mother. Towards the end of the book you learn that in fact she has been dead for a long time and wrote all these letters before dying so that he wouldn't have to mourn his mother on top of being at war. It's so profound." 

What are some other titles that have been important to you? 

"Romain Gary also wrote under the pen name Émile Ajar. As Ajar he wrote another book I love called Gros câlin, which translates to 'Great Hug.' It is told through the eyes of a child who adopts a python and has to feed it a mouse every day — but he starts becoming attached to the mice. It's all about the duality of life. The python needs to eat, but the boy loves both the snake and the mice and so it's this very beautiful reflection on the cycle of life.  

I have a very unique family story. There were a lot of weird secrets and dynamics and a lot of people involved in raising me.

"A book I really enjoyed for its humour and its depiction of a very dysfunctional family is Augusten Burroughs's memoir Running with Scissors. I have a very unique family story. I was raised by my grandparents and my mom. I had no dad. I had a brother I didn't know about until I was 18 years old. There were just a lot of weird secrets and dynamics and a lot of people involved in raising me and so I loved that book and recommend it a lot." 

You live in L.A. now but grew up in Montreal and still spend a lot of time there. Apart from your Canada Reads selection, Suzanne, do you have a favourite book by a Canadian author? 

"Life of Pi is definitely one of my favourite Canadian books. I was with that boy on the boat. I also thought it was a very interesting reflection on religion. I'm an atheist and to me religion is something that people created to explain the unexplainable of what it is to be alive, which is the most profound question a human can ask. I think Life of Pi is asking those kinds of questions and trying to make sense out of life. It's a book about the stories that we tell ourselves to make sense of things, which is a need I understand. Listen, I do it every day." 

What's a book that has changed you as a reader and person — whether personally or professionally? 

"The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle has changed me for sure. There are certain books where the reflection is so profound that you find yourself wondering, 'How did you even get in touch with that reflection?' Tolle is talking about the self and says that as humans we identify with our thoughts.

"We think that our thoughts are us. But he says when you're having a thought and you observe yourself having a thought, that presence that is observing you having the thought is your essence. Not the thought itself. There's a lot of 'ah ha!' moments in that book." 

Yanic Truesdale's comments have been edited for length and clarity. 

The Canada Reads 2019 contenders


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