Canada Reads

Roger Mooking thinks Canada Reads will be like 'Reading Rainbow Gladiator'

The Canada Reads 2021 panellist spoke with Adrienne Pan on Edmonton's Radio Active about the great Canadian book debate, and the title he chose to champion: Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi.

The Canada Reads 2021 panellist spoke with Adrienne Pan on Edmonton's Radio Active

Roger Mooking is championing Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi. (Submitted by Roger Mooking)

Roger Mooking is one of the panellists taking part in Canada Reads 2021. The chef, recording artist and TV host will be championing Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi.

Canada Reads will take place March 8-11, 2021.

The debates will be hosted by Ali Hassan and will be broadcast on CBC Radio OneCBC TVCBC Gem and on CBC Books

Butter Honey Pig Bread is a novel about twin sisters, Kehinde and Taiye, and their mother, Kambirinachi. Kambirinachi believes she was a spirit who was supposed to die as a small child. By staying alive, she is cursing her family — a fear that appears to come true when Kehinde experiences something that tears the family apart, and divides the twins for years. But when the three women connect years later, they must confront their past and find forgiveness.

"Butter Honey Pig Bread is Francesca Ekwuyasi's majestic debut novel. She will solidify her place in the pantheon of great Canadian writers off this book alone. It treads verses, continents, time, the bonds of family. It explores Nigerian culture, folklore. It takes place in Halifax, Montreal, London and various parts of Nigeria. There are repetitive familial traumas... and it challenges the notion of kin," Mooking said on the Canada Reads reveal on q. "Everybody has challenges in their life and this one really frames it in a very interesting way."

After the 2021 contenders were revealed, Mooking spoke with Adrienne Pan on Edmonton's Radio Active.

We are chatting with newly minted panelist Roger Mooking about why he's defending Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi. 6:19

You've virtually met your fellow Canada Reads panellists. Can you tell us what that was like? 

It was just so good. All these different people from different walks of life, different disciplines, different crafts. Everybody's passionate and everybody's focused on telling stories in their own way, through their work. 

You've chosen to champion Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi. Can you describe the book for us?

It's a book that transports you to Nigeria, there's London, there's Halifax, there's Montreal. The whole theme this year is about transporting the reader, so it definitely fits that. But it's really about a family that has experienced several traumas. Some of them are mental health related, some are spiritual and some are physical traumas of the worst kind. The book is about how they survive that and how their relationships are affected, and, eventually, repaired.

It's one of the best books I've read in my life, it's fantastic, really incredible. ​​​​​​

I think that's something everybody can relate to. It's one of the best books I've read in my life, it's fantastic, really incredible. 

 Considering your food background, was there any food connection that drew you to this book?

The title obviously was something that made me go, 'Oh, what's this about? I want to check that out.' There's food heavily threaded throughout the book, although the themes of the book are not food-centric.

When I spoke to Francesca about it, she was like, 'I like to cook and scenes ended up being around the kitchen and with cooking.' It's just that simple. I think it's important that she — and any writer or creator — writes what is near and dear to them.

Roger Mooking on discovering and championing Black writers

1 month ago
1:08
The chef, recording artist and TV host is defending Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi on Canada Reads 2021. 1:08

In your virtual meet-up with Francesca, did you learn anything about the book that made you think about it in a different way? 

There are a lot of things that were tangentially unresolved in the book. Some characters are briefly coming and going. I would be like 'What happened to that character? Why did they just come and go?' And she said, 'They served their purpose. They just had a fleeting moment. Sometimes people in our lives are just fleeting moments like that. But you can revert back to your kin, your core, your family.' That is the central focus of the novel. Getting that insight from her was really, really an honour. 

What are you looking forward to the most about the Canada Reads experience?

It can be pretty intense. Everybody who is championing a book is really passionate. We have musicians, athletes, broadcasters. We have comedians and actors — very passionate people. And I'm very passionate.

I'm excited to be around creative, passionate people and hashing it out.

I'm excited to be around creative, passionate people and hashing it out. I think it's going to be like a Reading Rainbow Gladiator

Roger Mooking's comments have been edited for clarity and length.

The Canada Reads 2021 contenders

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