Canada Reads·Highlight

What these two Canada Reads contenders can teach Canadians about complicated family dynamics

Amanda Brugel and Kaniehtiio Horn discuss how Son of a Trickster and We Have Always Been Here share thematic similarities when it comes to family.

Amanda Brugel and Kaniehtiio Horn highlight similarities between their books in addressing the complexities of family dynamics

6 months agoVideo
On Day Three of Canada Reads 2020, the two panellists drew parallels between the books they are defending. 2:29

During the third round of Canada Reads 2020, The Handmaid's Tale actress Amanda Brugel, defending We Have Always Been Here by Samra Habib, and Letterkenny star Kaniehtiio "Tiio" Horn, defending Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson, found common ground. 

The memoir We Have Always Been Here chronicles the author's childhood in Pakistan, her experience with religious persecution, arriving in Canada as a refugee at age 10 and her journey of coming out as a proud queer Muslim woman.

The novel Son of a Trickster tells the story of a teenager named Jared Martin in Kitimat, B.C., who is known in his community for making the best weed cookies and having a scary mom. In spite of his personal challenges, he does his best to take care of his struggling family.

Brugel and Horn discussed how their respective books both explore the complexities of relationships and unconditional love through their protagonists, who have experienced abuse at the hands of their loved ones.

Below is a condensed version of their comments. Watch the video above for the complete exchange.

Kaniehtiio Horn: "For me as a reader... I loved Samra. I loved Samra's voice and I really felt connected to her and right by her [side] as she was going through this journey. 

"And then for Son of a Trickster, Jared is obviously awesome, but the character that really stood out to me was Maggie, the mother. At first you can be like, 'Oh my god, she's awful, she's abusive.' And yes, she is all of those things, but she's also strong and she's trying. No matter how messed up the way that she's trying is, she's still trying. When you know all of the circumstances as to why she is the way she is, it gives you a deeper understanding of who she is."

Amanda Brugel: "The one thing that I loved about Samra and Jared — if we're talking about Jared's flaws — is that Samra found out when she was 13 that she was engaged to her first cousin via a note that he slipped under her door and she was embarrassed, went to high school and had to keep that secret close to her and then had suicidal thoughts and eventually ran away from home. 

"Jared spends a lot of it running across the street to help the neighbours and he spends a lot of it hanging out with friends trying to escape the abuse and oppression of his mother. But the two things that these characters have in common that I think these authors do so incredibly well is they still have hope for their family. Jared still loves his mom. Samra still loves her parents."

Kaniehtiio Horn: "They're all driven by love."

Amanda Brugel: "And it shows the complexities of relationships. It's not just black and white when you're abused. I think it speaks to an audience where you have complicated family dynamics, but you can still have love and loyalty to your family and that's confusing and I like the way it addressed that and helps readers feel comforted by that notion."

The Canada Reads 2020 contenders and their chosen books are:

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.