Listen to the Canada Reads authors on The Next Chapter

Cherie Dimaline, Mark Sakamoto, Omar El Akkad, Sharon Bala and Craig Davidson join Shelagh Rogers before the Canada Reads debates, which take place March 26-29, 2018.

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's novel The Boat People will be defended by Mozhdah Jamalzadah. (CBC)

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." 

Sharon Bala on her debut novel, which is in the running for Canada Reads 2018, and gives an inside look at what it's like to be an asylum seeker in Canada. 14:46

American War by Omar El Akkad, defended by Tahmoh Penikett

Omar El Akkad's debut novel is American War. (Peter Power/CBC)

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."

Omar El Akkad on his Canada Reads contender, a novel set 50 years in the future in an America devastated by civil war and global warming. 18:22

Precious Cargo by Craig Davidson, defended by Greg Johnson

Craig Davidson's memoir Precious Cargo will be defended by Tornado Hunter Greg Johnson. (Peter Power)

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."

Craig Davidson on his Canada Reads contender, a memoir of his year spent driving a school bus for special needs kids. 10:19

Forgiveness by Mark Sakamoto, defended by Jeanne Beker

Mark Sakamoto's memoir Forgiveness was successfully defended by Jeanne Beker on Canada Reads 2018. (CBC)

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." 

Mark Sakamoto on his memoir, which is a contender for Canada Reads 2018. 19:06

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline, defended by Jully Black

Cherie Dimaline's YA novel The Marrow Thieves will be defended by Jully Black. (CBC)

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.'"

Cherie Dimaline on her Canad Reads contender "The Marrow Thieves." (Originally aired Oct 2, 2017) 10:06