Why Gurdeep Pandher thinks novel Hotline will shift Canadians perspective on the immigrant experience
On Day Three of Canada Reads, Gurdeep Pandher shared his thoughts on the novel Hotline by Dimitri Nasrallah
The Canada Reads 2023 debates are well underway. With the theme "One book to shift your perspective," the panellists continue to examine the contending books and dig into their ability to change our views.
During Day Three, the panellists were asked about their personal connection to the book they've chosen to champion.
Hotline follows Muna Heddad, a widow and mother who has left behind a civil war in Lebanon and is living in Montreal in the 1980s. The only work she can find is as a hotline operator at a weight-loss centre where she fields calls from people responding to ads in magazines or on TV. These strangers have so much to say about their challenges, from marriages gone bad to personal inadequacies. Although her life in Canada is filled with invisible barriers, Muna is privy to her clients' deepest secrets.
During his 60-second opening statement, Pandher talked about relating to Muna's struggle and his own personal experience with racism.
"Hotline speaks to me in numerous ways. Protagonist Muna and I face similar barriers. Like her, I immigrated to this country. She applied to many jobs, but she was denied repeatedly. I applied for many jobs too. I was denied many times, repeatedly.
I know about barriers and pain.- Gurdeep Pandher
"Once, based on my skills in my resume and without seeing my face, an employer offered me a job. When I went to work, the very first day, after seeing my face, they asked me to find a job somewhere else. So I know about barriers and pain," said Pandher.
I want people across Canada to shift their perspective on racism.- Gurdeep Pandher
"I rarely talk about my own story. Despite what I faced, I make happy videos and talk about positivity to make people smile. In Hotline, Muna, as a weight-loss consultant does the same. She makes Canadians feel better."
"I want people across Canada to shift their perspective on racism."
Greyeyes, an actor, choreographer and director from Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, reflected on the character of Muna.
"Muna's coming out of a war. This is a person who is traumatized by life experience. And when she comes here — just that bravery — the quiet strength of her is something I'll never forget. I was profoundly affected by Muna's story."
I feel like [Hotline] can help people understand the immigrant experience- Tasnim Geedi
"Reading Hotline was more like a mirror than transformative [for me] ... but when I went to university and I met people that did not know that Black Muslim women could exist, that notion just surprised me. And I feel like [Hotline] can help people understand the immigrant experience, how hard it is to be a single [parent], in the intersectionality of it all with Muna's character," said Geedi.
"Yes, it didn't do much for me because this is a story that I know every single day, but I'm thinking about the people who I went to university with and I really want to give every single one of them [Hotline] because Black Muslim people exist. The fact that [Muna], a woman who speaks French and she's Syrian, exists. And I think that kind of narrative is really important."
The Canada Reads 2023 champions and their chosen books are:
- Jeopardy! super-champ Mattea Roach champions Ducks by Kate Beaton
- Actor Keegan Connor Tracy champions Greenwood by Michael Christie
- Bhangra dancer Gurdeep Pandher champions Hotline by Dimitri Nasrallah
- TikTok creator Tasnim Geedi champions Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
- Actor Michael Greyeyes champions Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Here's how you can tune into Canada Reads 2023:
ON RADIO: Canada Reads will air on CBC Radio at 10:05 a.m. in the Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific time zones.
It will air at 11:05 a.m. in the Maritimes, 1:05 p.m. in Labrador and at 1:35 p.m. in Newfoundland.
The debates will replay at 9 p.m. local time in all time zones, except in Newfoundland, where it will replay at 9:30 p.m.
ON TV: CBC TV will broadcast Canada Reads at 1 p.m. in the Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific time zones. It will air at 2 p.m. in the Atlantic time zone and at 2:30 p.m in the Newfoundland time zone.
PODCAST: Listen to the debates as a podcast on CBC Listen. The episode will be posted each day after the live airing.
WARNING: The books chosen for Canada Reads deal with difficult topics, such as trauma and abuse. These stories may be shared during the broadcast. Click this link to find publicly available resources for support.