The Next Chapter

Heather Greenwood Davis reviews 3 books to make you think about our post-pandemic world

The Toronto writer, editor and travel blogger reviews Off Script by Marci Ien, All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung and You are Your Own Best Thing, edited by Brene Brown and Tarana Burke.
Heather Greenwood Davis is a freelance writer and on-air storyteller for National Geographic. (VijithaB Photography)

Heather Greenwood Davis has travelled all over the world with her husband and two sons, and she's a contributing writer for National Geographic.

Thanks to the pandemic, the Toronto writer, editor, columnist and blogger spent the past year exploring places closer to home and not thinking about her carry-on. But she's managed to travel metaphorically, at least through some favourite books.

She spoke with Shelagh Rogers about three books that make you think about our post-pandemic world: Off Script by Marci Ien, All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung andYou are Your Own Best Thing, edited by Brene Brown and Tarana Burke.

Off Script by Marci Ien

Off Script is a book by Marci Ien. (Andrew Holmes, HarperCollins Canada)

"I've actually worked with Marci, both when she was a journalist and when she was a host on CTV's The Social. But long before I knew her, I felt like I knew her because she was always on my screen. I think a lot of people can relate to that.

"What I love about this memoir is that it offers a peek from the other side of the camera. But we also learn about some of her personal struggles. It really feels like she's guiding you by the hand behind the stage, behind the camera, into her home. 

What I love about this memoir is that it offers a peek from the other side of the camera.

"Plus, she gives us lots of photos, which I always love. It's a book that does a great job of showing you how the public affects the personal."

All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung 

Nicole Chung is the author of the memoir All You Can Ever Know. (Erica B. Tappis/Counterpoint Press )

"Nicole is a writer and editor for a ton of esteemed publications, including The New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, Slate and Vulture. This is a book that came out in 2018 and won a whole bunch of awards. It spoke to me because one of the growing trends right now in travel is hereditary journey.

"People are tracing their family trees and their ancestry — then they're heading out to try to figure out who they are based on those things and visiting places in the world where their people are from. 

This is about motherhood and family and secrets and the things we think we want to know, but maybe we don't.

"She is of Korean heritage and she's tracing her roots in America. As a newborn, she was adopted by a white family. The book takes us on this 30-year journey where she's someone who looks different than the family that loves her. In her later years, she is actually seeking out and finding her birth family at literally the same moment that her husband and herself are starting their own family. 

"This is about motherhood and family and secrets and the things we think we want to know, but maybe we don't. It's a fascinating read." 

You are Your Own Best Thing, edited by Brene Brown and Tarana Burke

You are Your Own Best Thing is an essay anthology edited by Brene Brown and Tarana Burke. (Random House, Randal Ford, Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for The Blackhouse Foundation at Sundance 2018)

"Tarana Burke was the leader of the #MeToo movement. Brene Brown has risen to fame because of all of her discussions around vulnerability. And together, they've chosen 20 stories from Black writers that talk about shame, resilience and vulnerability. It is outstanding.

"This book has landed at the exact right time, where, one year after George Floyd's murder. While there's been a lot of loud analysis and promises about race relations, there are still a lot of really quiet conversations that haven't received consideration yet.

"Out of a place of self-preservation, a lot of conversations among Black people about race happen within the community or even within the family. Those are still conversations that can be very hard to bring out to a bigger audience. The writing is so vulnerable and normal."

Heather Greenwood Davis's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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