The Next Chapter

Tanika Charles on the novel she couldn't put down

The soul singer explains why anyone can read Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill.
Singer Tanika Charles' latest album is Soul Run. (Cam Boatman)

Tanika Charles is a Toronto-based soul and R&B singer whose latest album is called Soul Run. Below, Tanika explains why Heather O'Neill's Canada Reads-winning novel Lullabies for Little Criminals was a book that she could not put down.

This is a story about a young lady named Baby who is raised by her equally young father, who is also drug addicted. She is often neglected by her father, so she is forced to raise herself. This eventually leads her to foster care, prostitution and she eventually becomes drug addicted herself. I think this book resonates with me because not only does Heather O'Neill write beautifully — it's vibrant, her words are rich, you can't help but empathize with the character — but I also have a friend who was raised in the foster care system and a lot of the kids who come out of the system find it hard to cope within society. In Baby's case, you don't actually find out what happens to her at the end and you can only hope that her life changes for the better.

Baby is an interesting character because in the midst of all the traumatizing situations that she's in and the impoverished lifestyle that she is living, she has a tendency to find beauty in all of these situations. She's got this vivid imagination, and you're there with her in all of her experiences. I couldn't put this book down. It was beautiful, I cried, there was a lot of laughter. I think anyone could read it, it's that beautiful.