Listen to the Canada Reads authors on The Next Chapter
Starting March 26, 2018, five esteemed Canadians will take the stage to prove that their chosen book is the one that will open our eyes. In preparation for CBC's battle of the books, The Next Chapter host Shelagh Rogers has spoken with each of the Canada Reads 2018 authors about the powerful themes and ideas explored in their works of literature.
The Boat People by Sharon Bala, defended by Mozhdah Jamalzadah
Sharon Bala on her novel: "Sometimes it's easy to forget that we all came from somewhere else. We often think of the 'boat people' being the Vietnamese, when in fact so were the Vikings, the French and the English. The vast majority of Canadians have come from somewhere else. It's easy to look at 'new' boat people and think that they're somehow very different from us. What I realized is that we're very similar. One of the reasons my family left Sri Lanka was because of the war and the ethnic tension that had been brewing when my parents were growing up... When I sat down to write The Boat People, it just came back to me."
American War by Omar El Akkad, defended by Tahmoh Penikett
Omar El Akkad on his novel: "I was thinking a lot about home when I was writing this story. I don't have a very good answer to the question, 'Where are you from?' I was born in one country, but I left it when I was five. I grew up in another country, but I could never be a citizen because they don't allow non-hereditary citizenship. I consider Canada my home, but I didn't come to Canada until I was 16 years old. And now I live in the United States, which I don't consider my home, but is physically my home for the time being.
"I was trying to deconstruct what home means and I came up with a hierarchy. The very bottom of which is just the right to live in peace and at the very top end of which is the right to fundamentally alter your surroundings. The book is concerned with this idea of home, not as a location, not even as a state of mind or an allegiance, but rather as trying to work your way up that hierarchy."
Precious Cargo by Craig Davidson, defended by Greg Johnson
Craig Davidson on his memoir: "I thought that I was going to be driving a big bus and have encounters that would go along the lines of opening the door, the kids would come on and maybe we'd smile, maybe we wouldn't. I would drive 60 of them to school and they'd be as faceless to me as I am to them. But I ended up driving a special needs route, which are always smaller. There were five kids — four boys, one girl. I formed friendships with all of them and it was completely surprising to me. I was bushwhacked in the best possible way by these encounters."
Forgiveness by Mark Sakamoto, defended by Jeanne Beker
Mark Sakamoto on his memoir: "My grandma was born in Canada. But hate, as it often does, came wrapped in the flag. Anti-Asian forces were very prevalent in B.C. and California. They were used in the Second World War as a means to eradicate the Japanese Canadians. So they were forcibly moved. They lost all of their material possessions and were shipped across the country. My grandma lived in a modified chicken coop on the Prairies outside of Coaldale, Alta. They spent the entire war battling poverty and the sun in the summer and the — 40 C weather in the winter, living in a slightly modified chicken coop.
"Afterward, every head of military, RCMP, the Navy said there was no Japanese Canadian threat at all. Zero threat. This was a racist policy that was carried out under the guise of national security."
The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline, defended by Jully Black
Cherie Dimaline on her novel: "I wanted to talk about [Indigenous] stories, in particular what happens to communities through residential schools. I think there is a light through the bleakness in this dystopia: the fact that our community still exists. There were two things that I wanted to play up by putting it in the future: I wanted Indigenous youth to see themselves in the future, I wanted to put aside, even just for a moment, that sense of defensiveness or the tendency to shutdown that can come with talking about a difficult history. I wanted people to come away saying, 'I would never let that happen,' or more correctly, 'I would never let that happen again.'"