Meet the Canada Reads 2022 contenders
Canada Reads is back! The debates will take place March 28-31, 2022
What is the one book all of Canada should read? It's time for Canada Reads 2022.
In these days of isolation, we're exploring stories that inspire readers to reflect on community and who we are in the world we live in. Over four days, five Canada Reads champions will bring their diverse perspectives to this year's theme: One Book to Connect Us.
The champions and their chosen books are:
- Ojibway author and Vogue fashion writer Christian Allaire champions Five Little Indians by Michelle Good
- Actor and activist Malia Baker champions Scarborough by Catherine Hernandez
- Entrepreneur and former Syrian refugee Tareq Hadhad champions What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkad
- Forest ecologist and author Suzanne Simard champions Life In the City of Dirty Water by Clayton Thomas-Müller
- Olympian and LGBTQ2+ advocate Mark Tewksbury champions Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
The debates will take place March 28-31, 2022.
Hassan is an actor, comedian and host of CBC Radio's Laugh Out Loud and a frequent guest host of As It Happens and Q. He can also be seen in his recurring TV roles on Designated Survivor, Odd Squad and Run the Burbs.
Hassan has hosted Canada Reads since 2017.
"We know so many of our neighbours are feeling isolated this winter, so the moment feels right to explore stories of community," said Hassan. "This year's books will remind readers that we're all connected and that we're stronger when we come together. We can work through hard things and find the hope we need to keep going."
The five panellists were on CBC Radio's Q to reveal the books they will be championing in the debates.
LISTEN | The Canada Reads contenders speak with CBC Radio's Q:
No stranger to high-level competition, Tewksbury noted that he is excited about the upcoming debates. "I love a healthy debate and that's what I am looking forward to the most," he told Q host Tom Power.
The panel also discussed the importance of Canada Reads, and books, during the pandemic and this time of uncertainty.
"We live in this incredible country that is going through all kinds of changes. I have this wisdom … and I am hoping it gives me the competitive edge," said Simard.
"I've always been a huge reader. Being able to have these healthy debates is all in good fun," added Baker. "In the end, the one book [that will be the champion] will be really deserving."
Hadhad offered that talking about books and literature at this particular time is something that he is looking forward to.
"I am a book nerd by default so I wanted to make sure that I voice my concern on the issues that matter to Canadians and to the world these days," said Hadhad.
Allaire agreed that setting the tone for this year's Canada Reads is important.
"I went into this wanting to champion a contemporary Indigenous voice. That's how I narrowed [my book choice] down that way. I'm all for healthy debate and hoping it's a healthy battle," said Allaire.
Other past Canada Reads winners include Lawrence Hill's The Illegal, championed by Olympian Clara Hughes, Kim Thúy's Ru, championed by TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey and André Alexis's Fifteen Dogs, championed by spoken word artist Humble The Poet.
Learn more about the Canada Reads 2022 contenders below.
In Five Little Indians, Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie and Maisie were taken from their families and sent to a residential school when they were very small. Barely out of childhood, they are released without resources and left to establish adult lives in eastside Vancouver. Haunted by the trauma of their childhood, the five friends cross paths over the decades and struggle with the weight of their shared past.
Christian Allaire is an Ojibway writer from Nipissing First Nation. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism from Ryerson University in 2014, and he has since written for publications such as Footwear News, Refinery29, Elle, Hazlitt, Mr. Porter and The National Post. Currently, he is the Fashion and Style Writer for Vogue. Allaire is also the author of The Power of Style, a YA nonfiction book that highlights the need for diversity and representation in fashion — and examines topics such as cosplay, make up, hijabs, and hair to show the intersection of style, culture and social justice over the years.
Michelle Good is a Cree writer and retired lawyer, as well as a member of Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. Good holds an MFA and a law degree from the University of British Columbia and, as a lawyer, advocated for residential school survivors. Five Little Indians is her first book. Five Little Indians won the 2020 Governor General's Literary Award for fiction and the 2021 Amazon Canada First Novel Award. It was also on the 2020 Writers' Trust Fiction Prize shortlist and the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist.
Scarborough is the multi-voiced story of a neighbourhood that refuses to fall apart in the face of poverty and crime. Weaving together the stories of three children growing up in difficult circumstances with the stories of three adults who are doing their best to help them out, Scarborough is a vibrant and emotional debut.
Malia Baker is a Canadian actress and activist. She is most recognizable for her performance in Netflix's hit series The Baby-Sitter's Club with a starring role as Mary Anne Spier. Baker can soon be seen as a lead in Lifetime's film Caught in His Web, executive produced by Whoopi Goldberg, and the dramedy Harvest Moon, starring alongside Paul Bettany, Carmen Ejogo and Candice Bergen. When not filming, Malia spends time with family, immersing herself in her love of music and books, or using her platform to inspire and empower young girls to use their voices for change and equality.
Catherine Hernandez is a Canadian writer, author and playwright. CBC Books named Hernandez a writer to watch in 2017 and her debut novel Scarborough was shortlisted for the 2017 Toronto Book Award, the 2018 Trillium Book Award and the 2018 Edmund White Award for debut fiction. Scarborough was also on the 2018 Canada Reads longlist and has been adapted into a feature film. Her sophomore novel, Crosshairs, was published in 2020.
What Strange Paradise is a novel that tells the story of a global refugee crisis through the eyes of a child. Nine-year-old Amir is the only survivor from a ship full of refugees coming to a small island. He ends up with a teenage girl named Vanna, who lives on the island. Even though they don't share a common language or culture, Vanna becomes determined to keep Amir safe. What Strange Paradise tells both their stories and how they each reached this moment, while asking the questions, "How did we get here?" and "What are we going to do about it?"
Tareq Hadhad is a former Syrian refugee who is currently living his new life with his entrepreneurial family in Canada's east coast. He is the founder and CEO of Peace by Chocolate. Passionate about peace and entrepreneurship, his family relaunched the family business to recreate the chocolates they exported across the Middle East and their story turned into an international phenomenon. In the nonfiction book Peace by Chocolate, journalist Jon Tattrie shares Hadhad's story and the family's message of the power of community and positivity.
Omar El Akkad is a Canadian journalist and author who currently lives in Portland, Ore. He is also the author of the novel American War, which was defended on Canada Reads 2018 by actor Tahmoh Penikett.
Life in the City of Dirty Water is a memoir by Cree activist Clayton Thomas-Müller. It covers his entire life: from playing with toy planes as a way to escape the intergenerational pain of Canada's residential school system to spending time in juvenile detention and later becoming an activist in the fight against colonial racism, environment degradation and violence. Along this rocky road, Thomas-Müller remains tied to his Cree heritage and spirituality.
Suzanne Simard is a B.C.-based author and academic who grew up in Canadian forests as a descendant of loggers. She is a professor in the department of forest and conservation sciences at the University of British Columbia. Simard is the author of the bestselling memoir, Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest, which documents Simard's research into the reality of the interconnection and intelligence of the forest.
Finding the Mother Tree was the grand prize winner for the 2021 Banff Mountain Book Competition and a category winner for the mountain environment and natural history award.
Clayton Thomas-Müller is a member of the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, located in Northern Manitoba. He's campaigned on behalf of Indigenous peoples around the world for more than 20 years, working with numerous organizations engaged in social activism and the environmental justice movement. Life in the City of Dirty Water is his first book.
Washington Black tells the story of 11-year-old Washington Black, who was born into slavery on a Barbados sugar plantation. His master is Christopher Wilde, a man obsessed with developing a machine that can fly. The two develop a bond, but when a man is killed, Wilde must choose between his family and saving Washington's life — and the choice results in an unforgettable adventure around the world.
Mark Tewksbury first came to prominence as a world record-breaking, Olympic champion backstroke swimmer. When he publicly came out in 1998, Mark was one of the first openly gay Olympic champions in the world. Author of three books including Inside Out: Straight Talk From A Gay Jock, Mark is also the playwright and performer of Belong, a one-man-show featured at Calgary's iconic High Performance Rodeo theatre festival. Currently, Mark is co-founder of Great Traits and is Vice President of the Canadian Olympic Committee. In 2020, Mark was appointed Companion of the Order of Canada, the nation's highest civilian honour.
Esi Edugyan is the author of the novels The Second Life of Samuel Tyne and Half-Blood Blues, the latter of which won the 2011 Scotiabank Giller Prize and was defended on Canada Reads by Donovan Bailey in 2014. She delivered the CBC Massey Lectures and adapted the series into the book Out of the Sun: On Race and Storytelling. Raised in Calgary, Edugyan now lives in Victoria. Washington Black is currently being adapted into a TV series.