Canada Reads·Highlight

Ziya Tong reflects on heeding words of wisdom from elders before they are gone

The science journalist and Canada Reads 2019 panellist outlines why a Holocaust memoir is timely and relevant for our times.
The science journalist and Canada Reads 2019 panellist outlines why a Holocaust memoir is timely and relevant for our times. 1:12

During the finale of Canada Reads 2019 science journalist Ziya Tong, defending Holocaust memoir By Chance Alone by Max Eisen extolled the literary merits and virtues of all five books debated during the four-day event. 

Up against rock musician Chuck Comeau, defending the memoir Homes by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah with Winnie YeungTong nevertheless insisted that By Chance Alone, a memoir about Eisen's painful past as a Holocaust survivor, is the one book that shares an elder's wisdom of the past to help fight hatred in our present and future.

Homes is a memoir of al Rabeeah's experiences as a young teen in Syria in the midst of civil war. He and his family moved to Canada in 2014

"By Chance Alone really helps people understand wisdom," said Tong. "Every single one of our books on this table has one thing in common — they all represent underrepresented and marginalized voices, whether it's the voices of youth or women or people living in different circumstances [and] even mental health."

"In terms of my particular book...there's another group of people whose voices are entirely underrepresented in this world and it's the voice of the elderly. These are people who are all around us but essentially they are quite invisible. In the past we used to really revere wisdom and history from people who are older," said Tong.

"We are not going to have [a voice like Max's] soon. These are the last of the Holocaust survivors. I can guarantee you, there's not going to be another memoir like this. These voices are fading away. This is Max's last chance. There will be young voices coming to the fore. [Elder] voices are disappearing right now."

After one hour of debate, the five panellists voted a fourth book off the show. Click here to find out who emerged the winner.

The Canada Reads 2019 panellists are:

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