How Canada Reads panellist Tahmoh Penikett is preparing for the debates
Canada Reads 2018 panellist Tahmoh Penikett is an avid reader. He's an actor known for his roles in Battlestar Galactica, Supernatural and Continuum, but he hopes to highlight his literary insights as he defends Omar El Akkad's novel American War and its story about an American future torn by violence.
The debates take place March 26-29, 2018 and will be hosted by Ali Hassan.
His approach to reading
"I'm a big book reader. I come from a book-reading family and I love books. I rarely get to meet the authors and have real conversations with them about the books. Omar so cleverly wrote and fleshed out his characters — he's so descriptive and they're so coloured — that he's done a lot of my work for me. As an actor, I often approach books the same way that I approach scripts. I'm fascinated by characters, what motivates them, their relationships to other people and their backstory. I spend a lot of time thinking about that."
Why American War is timely for Canadians
"Omar's take on the very near future and the reasons this second civil war happens are very plausible. You can't help but read the book and realize that this is something that could happen. There's deep division in the United States right now. And, as its little brother to the north, we're invested. Most Canadians know that and would admit that we can't ignore American politics. "
Not afraid of debate
"I wasn't on the debate team in high school or university — this is not my forte. But I am passionate about books and about what Omar is trying to say in American War. [The panellists are a] group of people that normally wouldn't be sitting at a table together. That's important because one thing we're facing in the world today is a whole lot of intolerance. We're forgetting to have that kind of intelligent discourse, to communicate and to agree to disagree. I come from a political family. The issues that I believe in are things that I'm always game to talk about. Let's just hope I do a pretty good job."
Tahmoh Penikett's comments have been edited and condensed.
The Canada Reads 2018 contenders:
- Mozhdah Jamalzadah, defending The Boat People by Sharon Bala
- Tahmoh Penikett, defending American War by Omar El Akkad
- Greg Johnson, defending Precious Cargo by Craig Davidson
- Jeanne Beker, defending Forgiveness by Mark Sakamoto
- Jully Black, defending The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline