Books·Magic 8 Q&A

Karyn Freedman on her feminist heroes and why she loves winter

The author of One Hour in Paris answers eight questions submitted by eight other authors.
Karyn L. Freedman is the author of One Hour in Paris. (Regina Garcia)

In her powerful memoir One Hour in Paris, Karyn Freedman recounts the violent rape she experienced in 1990, at the age of 22. Freedman brings her insights as philosopher and feminist to the memoir, exploring sexual violence and the path to recovery in societies around the world.

Below, Karyn Freedman answers eight questions submitted by eight of her fellow writers in the CBC Books Magic 8 Q&A.

1. Eden Robinson asks, "Who was your most influential mentor?"

I have had many inspiring teachers over the years, but my greatest influences have been the feminist philosophers whose theory and activism has shaped my understanding of the world, women like Lorraine Code, Miranda Fricker, bell hooks, Helen Longino and Iris Marion Young.

2. Jane Urquhart asks, "Is there a difference in the way that male and female writers are valued by the literary establishment and by society?"

Men and women are valued differently by most of our social and cultural institutions, so it would be a surprise if that weren't the case in the literary establishment. What did that Canadian writer and journalist, David what's-his-name, once say about female writers? That he doesn't much like them and isn't so interested in teaching books by them? Currently, he's teaching literature and creative writing at the University of Toronto. Case in point.

3. Nino Ricci asks, "Gore Vidal said, 'It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.' Discuss."

Sounds like something Donald Trump would say.

4. Louise Penny asks, "What do you know now that you wish you'd known when writing your first book?"

I wish I had known how many good nights of sleep I'd lose staying up late reading your  Inspector Gamache series, which I only discovered a few years ago. I can't get enough of the endlessly charming Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his pals Ruth, Clara, Myrna and the other villagers of Three Pines. Getting lost in a good story has taught me a lot about how to write.

5. Erín Moure asks, "Do you like winter?"

There are some things about winter I like a lot, most especially the biting sound of freshly sharpened skates on outdoor ice, the slap of a cold hockey puck and the whoosh as it flies undetected through the air and into the back of the net. I also like the peacefulness of bright sun on snow. That's what comes from growing up in Winnipeg.

6. Rajiv Surendra asks, "Is there a book that you wish you had never read? Explain. Please. Thanks."

Ulysses. I'm pretty sure no explanation is needed here.

7. Susan Juby asks, "What was the most memorable, good or bad, reader comment you ever received? How did you respond?"

I am lucky to have received many kind and generous comments from readers (and very few unkind ones). Most memorable are the comments from other survivors, women who see themselves in my book and take the time to tell me their own stories of rape and recovery. It is a privilege and an honour to hear from these women, and I always make sure to tell them so.

8. Erin Bow asks, "Would you write if you could never be read?"

Yes, and much of my philosophical writing is proof of that.