Canada Reads – Day 1

Yesterday was the first day of the Canada Reads debates. I watched them on TV at 4:00pm CST and live-tweeted my thoughts. I figured today, I would try and form some of those thoughts into a coherent post about what I thought about day 1 of Canada Reads.

Here there be spoilers.

I will preface this by saying that I have not yet read The Right to be Cold by Sheila Watt-Cloutier. It was the one I was most tentative about, because I know non-fiction takes me forever to read. So I saved it for last. I also am even more nervous to read it after hearing some of the debate.

If you missed day one of the debate, you can watch it online here!

First, we meet the panelists. One of the panelists has changed since the initial announcement. Company Town by Madeline Ashby was originally being defended by Tamara Taylor, but is now being defended by Measha Bruggergrosman. I take an immediate dislike to Jody Mitic. His comments about “second place is the first loser” make me cringe. I feel like that is not a Canadian value.

Then, we saw the trailers for each book. Book trailers are kind of take it or leave it for me, as I find they can sometimes remove me from the story instead of adding to it. I get such a clear picture in my head, and when I see someone else’s take on it, it can be quite jarring.

Immediately following each trailer, the panelists each got 30 seconds to defend their books.

While Measha is talking about Company Town, I find myself nodding along. I really do like the points she touched on. Especially the decriminalized (though not destigmatized) sex workers in Company Town. The wage gap, the health gap… there is a lot of relatable content here.

I feel like Jody’s defense of Nostalgia is ineffectual. I liked Nostalgia a fair bit, but I don’t feel like it “connects directly with the moment we are in now”.

When Candy starts talking about The Break, I am very touched. She is poised and respectful. She talks about the effects of colonialism (which I admit, I am still learning about) and she mentions that The Break has been number one on Canadian bestseller lists for the past two weeks.

Humble the Poet is defending Fifteen Dogs. I can agree that Fifteen Dogs is a narrative on the human condition, but I think that is a big part of why I disliked it. The best part about dogs is that they aren’t subject to the human condition. They are innocent and pure and just, some of the best beings. And seeing some of the human traits projected on to them in such a negative light was awful for me.

The Right to be Cold is the one book I haven’t read yet. I feel like Chantal Kreviazuk is very passionate about this book, but I don’t feel like she is very adept at saying why.

We get a little break, and now we are letting the other panelists talk about everyone else’s books.

Nostalgia

Candy starts in on Nostalgia. She makes a very valid point about Nostalgia being “yet another” book about a 50 year old man having an affair with a 20-something augmented woman. She then goes on to reiterate that the question Canada Reads is asking is “What is the ONE book Canadians need now”, and that in her opinion, Nostalgia doesn’t fill that urgency.

Jody corrects Candy, because the younger woman is not actually augmented in Nostalgia. It is the man who is.

Now, Nostalgia had been my second choice to win, but hearing Candy talk about the fact that yes, it is another book about another man in his 50’s who is enjoying life with a sweet young thing and poor him, is he going to lose her because he is old… it is a tired story. And it is the main story, unfortunately. Without spoiling too much, I think it would have been a lot more interesting if we learned the twist sooner, and heard more about what goes on in Maskinia.

Jody jumps in and starts talking about how we have people crossing the Canadian border in -40 degree (Celsius) weather, and how that is comparable to Maskinia and the climate in Nostalgia.

Well, first off, Maskinia is indicated to be somewhere on the Europe/Middle East side of things, where as our main characters are in Canada. Unless there was a major continental shift that isn’t discussed, then it is completely different from people crossing into Canada from the US currently. Jody latches onto the idea that there is a “wall” of some sort separating Maskinia from the rest of the world. Which I think is where he feels the connection is, with Darth Cheeto’s proposed plan.

But never in Nostalgia do we hear about people running across the border. We hear about them wanting a better life for themselves where they are. They want to be treated as equals. They want to not have nuclear waste dumped in their water. They want to not live in poverty. They don’t even care about removing their memory and being born anew. They just want to make things better for themselves and to not be treated like animals. Which DOES speak to current world affairs, but I don’t think that Jody Mitic actually picks up on that.

He keeps harping on the fact that “your past will always catch up with you” which is not the point I got from Nostalgia at all.

Humble steps up and starts talking about how fiction is very easy to use as a mirror.

Measha praises the younger character for her resourcefulness in “shacking up” with an older man in order to live the life she wants. Which I think is a little off… What are we trying to teach our women if we think it is ok for them to be unhappy, unfaithful, and to do something essentially demeaning to themselves so they can live in a fancy house?

The Right To Be Cold

Ali Hassan asks if The Right to be Cold inspired Jody Mitic to take steps to prevent climate change. He responds with a no, and says that it was too hard to read. This kicks off a very interesting debate between Chantal Kreviazuk and Jody Mitic that really put me off.

First, she drags Humble’s comment about lies being used to tell the truth in fiction. The Right to be Cold is the only non-fiction book in contention this year, but this is a discussion I have ongoing with people in the book community. Non-fiction is not inherently better than fiction. There is no “better” in the world of books, there is just “better for you”.

Chantal talks some more about the scientific facts and that while they might be too heavy for Jody (ooh, burn!) the book is still forgiving of people like Jody. Which he takes offense to that, and asks if he is the one who is causing climate change. It then devolves from there until Ali Hassan breaks it up.

Humble talks about how there are two sides to this particular book. One is “Do we recognize the important of climate change?” and “Does this book do a good job of pushing forward that issue”. He touches on the fact that there are still a lot of perspectives vs fact in the book. He then says something about “is this the book I will shove down people’s throat to make that point”. And this is where a lot of activism goes, is to the shove-down-the-throat scenario.

Candy makes an excellent point before we move on to the next book. She says that the whole “you’re not invited” perspective is not one that is conducive to healing. We need to bring as many people together as we can to heal the nation, and to move forward. I wholeheartedly agree with this.

I feel like there is a lot of passion in Chantal about this book. I also think that maybe the situation with her son in the hospital is taking a toll on her being able to constructively share that passion. It happens to all of us when we are emotional.

Fifteen Dogs

Measha kicks off by saying that this book is hard to love if you aren’t a dog person. Which I really disagree with. I am a huge dog person and I really didn’t love this book. So loving dogs is not necessary.

Chantal speaks about how this book has already received awards and accolades and is being celebrated. And she touches on the fact that the book is not the book we need, regardless of enjoying it.

Jody says the first thing I really agree with. The dogs are given intelligence and then “almost didn’t evolve”. And there are very many inconsistencies about what the dogs know and comprehend. And this, while I couldn’t put my finger on it before someone else said it, was something I really hated about the book.

Humble tries to take it back saying that you can replace the word dogs with people, and it describes what the book is trying to convey perfectly. Humanity’s lack of evolution, and the frustration resulting. He gets a few applause, and then Candy steps in and becomes my hero.

“Humble says that you can say not dogs and say people, but I say that you can say not dogs and say men,”

Fifteen Dogs is a very misogynistic book. And it didn’t hit me until someone else said it. I knew it but I couldn’t put my finger on it. And I am so glad that I became more aware of it, because it also highlights my need to grow in my ability to identify problematic content.

Company Town

Candy talks once again about the urgency of the theme, and then she moves on to the evasive “strong female character” descriptors.

This is another long-standing debate in the book community. What does a “strong” female character make? It isn’t physical strength, but that is often what we get.

We talk to Jody next about Hwa, the main character of Company Town. His veteran status is called up to talk about how he related to the book, and he says he liked Hwa the best. He then throws out the word “fictional” like he isn’t championing a book about memory alteration. So back on my “nope” list he goes.

Chantal talks about how Hwa is an amazing heroine, and says how she feels like she needs to read Company Town again because of the chaotic nature of the storyline. I really agree with this, especially in the last 1/4 of the book. It got confusing and overwhelming.

Measha talks about the cinematic quality to Company Town, and I think that is a trademark of dystopian novels. Measha is so tentative to call it a dystopian, but it really was.

Humble says that the cinematic quality is why he didn’t like Company Town. Because it all gets wrapped up in a big happy bow in the end, it is too neat and tidy.

The Break

“In order to heal a nation you have to include the entire nation” are the words from Measha about The Break. Written by a strong woman about similar strong women spanning multiple generations, there is not much (if any) “positive male representation” in The Break. Measha takes offense to this, because she is the mom of two boys.

My immediate response is that how many years have we gone with women as window dressing in fiction? We are only just getting proper representation for the disabled, POC, LGBTQ+ and other marginalized communities. It will not harm men to go without positive representation in a book about women.

My second thought was that if you are worried, as the mother of two small boys, raise them right and you have nothing to worry about. Men will always have the upper hand.

Jody gets the next response. He says that there is a phrase about white men saying goodbye in an offensive way, and how it made him feel attacked. As a white man, Jody has never been in the position the women in this book have been. Until you have been marginalized the way women, POC, LGBTQ+, disabled, etc have been, you don’t understand how someone can be so offensive with such a small thing.

Candy talks about how the way men are portrayed in The Break is a direct representation of how colonialism has affected the Indigenous men and women of Canada. Again, this is not something I can comment on as I am still learning about colonialism and its effects. But I can say that I think it is important to tell the stories that center around women being strong on their own, or with the support of other women. The idea that the men have to be well represented is so frustrating.

I also note that they don’t talk to Humble about The Break. I wish they had, because I feel his views might have been different, especially regarding where Jody felt so “misrepresented”.

Lightning Round and Vote

Measha talks about how Company Town has no race as an exclusionary measure. I disagree, because they do talk about Indigenous people in Company Time.

Jody talks about how Nostalgia makes you think about the past in relation to your future.

Humble compares fundamentalism versus wanting to actually make the future better.

Candy reiterates that The Break has been on the bestseller list for two weeks, and cannot go out in the first round.

Chantal wants to honor Sheila Watt-Cloutier and her efforts.

The vote comes out as follows:
Measha votes for The Break, because of the lack of positive male representation.
Jody votes for The Break, no reason given.
Chantal votes for Company Town, no reason given.
Candy votes for The Right to be Cold, because of the debate that happened.
Humble votes for The Right to be Cold, because he feels it is inaccessable to all Canadians.

The tie breaker comes down to Chantal, as she is the only one who voted for a book other than the tied books. She was obviously not going to vote her own book out, so The Break was eliminated in the first round.

I am really sad about this decision. I feel like The Break was a glorious piece of fiction written by an #ownvoices author. I was tentative going in, because I didn’t know if it was going to be accessible to me, but it really was. The Break was my first choice to win Canada Reads. I feel like it is an important piece of work that needs to be read by as many people as possible.

The other heartbreaking thing for me is the reason it was taken out.

In the Q&A session, which wasn’t on the TV version, but is on the web version, Candy states it perfectly.
“As an avid reader who has been reading all my life, and reading male dominated, and white dominated books, and loving them and giving them their due,” […] “that all those women were simply silenced today,”

There is some debate about if The Break being eliminated is equivalent to silencing these Indigenous women.

“To say their fates are sealed by a bunch of people voting on books is not fair,” is Measha’s response.

The thing is, yes this is already a Canadian bestseller. But there is never too much promotion for an #ownvoices book. There is never too much you can do to elevate the voices of the marginalized.

When Measha gets asked about Hwa and the ending of Company Town, I really dislike her answer. I dislike the idea that women have to give in to romance (especially heterosexual) to be whole. It is a tired trope.

A studio audience member touches on how male vs female authors are always going to be presenting their characters through their own lens. Humble talks about how he recognizes he is a male and he may have blinders on with regards to representation. Candy says that everyone is fighting to be heard and acknowledged. And if you are reading and you aren’t feeling that, it will affect how you feel. Chantal said that as she was reading “the book” (Fifteen Dogs) she felt “Did a man ever write this!”. Jody finds that when he reads a book by a man and the male author is writing a female character, he gets uncomfortable. He finds that it can be crass and creepy.

Measha was asked how she prepared for the debate. She has rebound her novels in coil and there are tabs. She also says that the “literaryness” is a higher priority for her than the subject matter.


PHEW! That was a really long post. Join me today at 4:00pm CST as I live-tweet the TV broadcast of the debate, day 2!

Stay bookish, lovelies!

Posted by The Bluestocking Bookworm in Books, Books I've Read, 0 comments

Top Ten Books I Read in One Sitting

 toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by the fine folks over at The Broke and the Bookish. They totally rock, so check them out!

While Top Ten Tuesday was on hiatus, I did some back topics. This week’s official topic is about authors I would love to meet. Which I actually did a few weeks ago. Whoopsies! So, I am going to do last week’s topic; Top Ten Books I Read in One Sitting. As always, in no particular order!

Bones and All by Camille DeAngelis (304 pages)
Lock In by John Scalzi (336 pages)
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (260 pages)
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh (371 pages)
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (223 pages)

Monstress Volume 1: Awakening by Marjorie M. Liu (202 pages)
Bird Box by Josh Malerman (262 pages)
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy (384 pages)
Just One Day by Gayle Forman (369 pages)
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (288 pages)

Do you often read books in one sitting? What were some of the best ones you have read? Comment below or link me to your TTT!

Stay bookish, lovelies!

Posted by The Bluestocking Bookworm in Books, Books I've Read, Reading, 1 comment

Top Ten Tuesday – March 7

 toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by the fine folks over at The Broke and the Bookish. They totally rock, so check them out!

Top Ten Tuesday is on official hiatus for a few weeks because the folks over at The Broke and the Bookish very much deserve a break! So my preferred topic for today is Top Ten Childhood Favorites. And I am being somewhat generous with the term “childhood”…

Mortimer by Robert Munsch – This was the first book I ever learned to read on my own. And I used to love to shout the parts at the top of my lungs.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – In the fourth grade, it was discovered that I had the highest reading comprehension the school had ever seen. So I was paired with an advanced group to read this book. And it has remained one of my favorites ever since… mostly because it reminds me that sometimes, people do see my potential.

The Complete Works of Beatrix Potter – I was given this book by an amazing family member and it remains one of my favorites. The stories of the animals in Mr. McGregor’s garden are true classics.

Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne – I live in the city that the hunny-loving bear was named for, so of course this book is forever a favorite.

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss – One of the first Seuss books I read. I also remember my parents surrounding me and reading it in stereo when I was nervous about getting braces. In junior high school. My parents are great.

The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka – This is a really ridiculous book and it is so great.

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – I have a very old version of this that I was given by my grandparents. I blame it for my love of Big Turk chocolate bars.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen – I read this for school one year, and I remember loving it so much. I need to reread it some time…

Half Magic by Edward Eager – This is a really cute little novel, and one I will one day buy for my nieces.

The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary – I loved pretty much everything that Cleary wrote. This one was probably my favorite, though.

So, bookish lovelies, what were your favorite childhood books? Link me to your TTT or comment below!

Posted by The Bluestocking Bookworm in Books, Books I've Read, Reading, 5 comments

Top Ten Tuesday – February 28, 2017

 toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by the fine folks over at The Broke and the Bookish. They totally rock, so check them out!

Top Ten Tuesday is on official hiatus for a few weeks because the folks over at The Broke and the Bookish very much deserve a break, and the main mastermind behind TTT is pregnant, and is having some issues with her pregnancy. So instead of dedicated themes/topics, we get two weeks of freebies! Instead of doing true freebies, I decided to go through the archives of topics from 2011. The first one I am going to do is from 2011 – Top Ten Authors I Would LOVE to Meet

  • Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant – Ever since I discovered this author, I have wanted to meet her and give her a hug if she will let me. Because she is the best. And she is an amazing person, to boot.
  • Patrick Rothfuss – Mostly I want to meet him to kick his ass so he will work on Book 3 of the Kingkiller Chronicles. But also because he seems like he would be fun to hang out with for a day.
  • Sarah J. Maas – She has written one of my favorite series ever, and I would do anything for the chance to get to meet her.
  • Sarah Addison Allen – Another author I love and respect and would just love to meet and hug.
  • Neil Gaiman – This man is a genius. This man is the epitome of everything awesome. I would kill for five minutes with him. KILL. Like, a really big spider or something.
  • J.D. Robb/Nora Roberts – I really love the In Death series. They are fantastic studies of character interaction, and they are super sexy. I really want to meet the mind behind these characters I love so dearly.
  • Diana Wynne Jones – Someone who is sadly, no longer with us… I love her books so dearly and I would love to have discovered them a few years sooner so I could have told her how much I appreciated her.
  • Anne Bishop – OK, you probably figured out by now that I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Others series by Anne Bishop. And I would completely flip out if the opportunity to meet Anne Bishop ever presented itself.
  • Guy Gavriel Kay – A Canadian author who writes amazing fantasy novels. I have actually had the opportunity to go to a Kay book signing, but I wasn’t able to make it. Next time, Gadget… NEXT TIME!
  • V.E. Schwab – A newer author to my radar, Schwab is a classy person who writes amazing books. I would really love to meet her and get my books signed. Because she writes amazing stories that hurt SO GOOD.

So, bookish lovelies. Which authors would you LOVE LOVE LOVE to meet?

Posted by The Bluestocking Bookworm in Books, Books I've Read, Reading, 0 comments

My Canada Reads Books Arrived!

I received a lovely package from CBC Books today. Not pictured are the awesome bookmarks they sent to be put into the Little Free Library. I have some reading to do, methinks…

Posted by The Bluestocking Bookworm in Books, Little Free Library, Reading, 0 comments

Canada Reads Shortlist: The Right to be Cold by Sheila Watt-Cloutier

 The Right to be Cold by Sheila Watt-Cloutier
368 pages
Published: March 21, 2016 by Penguin Canada

About the Book: The Arctic ice is receding each year, but just as irreplaceable is the culture, the wisdom that has allowed the Inuit to thrive in the Far North for so long. And it’s not just the Arctic. The whole world is changing in dangerous, unpredictable ways. Sheila Watt-Cloutier has devoted her life to protecting what is threatened and nurturing what has been wounded. In this culmination of Watt-Cloutier’s regional, national, and international work over the last twenty-five years, The Right to Be Cold explores the parallels between safeguarding the Arctic and the survival of Inuit culture, of which her own background is such an extraordinary example. This is a human story of resilience, commitment, and survival told from the unique vantage point of an Inuk woman who, in spite of many obstacles, rose from humble beginnings in the Arctic to become one of the most influential and decorated environmental, cultural, and human rights advocates in the world.

About the Author: The former head of the international Inuit Circumpolar Council and nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, author and activist Sheila Watt-Cloutier chronicles the impact climate change has had on northern communities and makes the case that this environmental crisis is indeed a human rights issue. Weaving together environmental, cultural and economic issues, Watt-Cloutier makes a passionate and personal plea for change.

About the defense – Chantal Kreviazuk: Since releasing her platinum-selling debut album Under these Rocks and Stones in 1997, Chantal Kreviazuk has become one of Canada’s most beloved artists. Her rise to fame was solidified in 1998 when international audiences heard the Winnipeg native’s now-iconic rendition of “Leaving on a Jet Plane” on the Armageddon soundtrack. After a string of distinguished albums, Chantal spent the past several years raising her three sons while simultaneously collaborating with superstars such as Drake, Pitbull, Christina Aguilera, Carrie Underwood, Kendrick Lamar and Pink. In 2012, Chantal was part of the CBC project Who Do You Think You Are?, which helped her trace her First Nations ancestry (her great-grandmother was Métis). She was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in 2014. In the summer of 2016, the Juno Award winner released the much-anticipated Hard Sail, her first album in seven years.

Why Chantal Kreviazuk thinks The Right to be Cold is the book Canadians need now: It’s exactly what the theme of Canada Reads is this year. It’s about the urgency that the climate is presenting to us, that the Earth is begging us to listen. Sheila shows us that each individual is not only directly connected to the planet and its manifestations, but is also important in the whole scheme of things.

My initial thoughts: As the longest book on this year’s shortlist, and the only nonfiction book, this is possibly the most daunting for me. I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, and when I do it is something that I choose because the subject matter interests me. The subject matter of The Right to be Cold is definitely interesting, especially the connection between environmental and human rights issues, but I don’t know if I would have ever picked up this book on my own without Canada Reads. But that is part of the fun of Canada Reads, isn’t it? Reading outside your comfort zone!

*With information from http://www.goodreads.com and http://www.cbc.ca/books/canadareads

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Little Free Library #41163 – February 26, 2017

Today I overhauled the Little Free Library. I got my stamp to help prevent reselling, so I put all stamped books out and took all the unstamped ones in for stamping. And in celebration of the weather being a little warmer-ish, I put some more kids’ books out!

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Canada Reads Shortlist: The Break by Katherena Vermette

The Break by Katherena Vermette
350 pages
Published: September 17, 2016 by House of Anansi Press

About the Book: When Stella, a young Métis mother, looks out her window one evening and spots someone in trouble on the Break — a barren field on an isolated strip of land outside her house — she calls the police to alert them to a possible crime.

In a series of shifting narratives, people who are connected, both directly and indirectly, with the victim — police, family, and friends — tell their personal stories leading up to that fateful night. Lou, a social worker, grapples with the departure of her live-in boyfriend. Cheryl, an artist, mourns the premature death of her sister Rain. Paulina, a single mother, struggles to trust her new partner. Phoenix, a homeless teenager, is released from a youth detention centre. Officer Scott, a Métis policeman, feels caught between two worlds as he patrols the city. Through their various perspectives a larger, more comprehensive story about lives of the residents in Winnipeg’s North End is exposed.

About the Author: Katherena Vermette is a Canadian writer, who won the Governor General’s Award for English-language poetry in 2013 for her collection North End Love Songs. Vermette is of Metis descent and from Winnipeg, Manitoba. She was a MFA student in creative writing at the University of British Columbia.

Her children’s picture book series The Seven Teachings Stories was published by Portage and Main Press in 2015. In addition to her own publications, her work has also been published in the literary anthology Manitowapow: Aboriginal Writings from the Land of Water. She is a member of the Aboriginal Writers Collective of Manitoba, and edited the anthology xxx ndn: love and lust in ndn country in 2011.

Vermette has described her writing as motivated by an activist spirit, particularly on First Nations issues. The title of her book refers to Winnipeg’s North End.

About the defense – Candy Palmater: In her own words: “I’m a gay Native recovered lawyer turned feminist comic, who was raised by bikers in the wilds of northern New Brunswick.” Candy Palmater attended the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University, where she is said to have been the first Aboriginal law student in Canada to be valedictorian of her graduating class. After a brief stint practicing labour and Aboriginal law, Palmater left for a job with the Nova Scotia government, which left her evenings free to pursue her comic ambitions. She created and wrote her own national TV show, The Candy Show, for APTN, and hosted the daily interview series The Candy Palmater Show on CBC Radio in 2016.

Why Candy Palmater thinks The Break is the book Canadians need now: It’s a very cold winter night in inner-city Winnipeg, and young Stella looks out the window and sees a crime taking place, and she calls the police. From there, a very well-crafted, well-written book, a story that will not let you go but will tell you the story of different generations of Indigenous women. You get to know not just the victim but the perpetrator, and you understand how colonization has created this entire situation. Every Canadian needs to read this to understand relations.

My initial thoughts: This book makes me nervous. Last year, I read Birdie by Tracey Lindberg, and I did not connect with it at all. Which is very OK, because I feel like a book like Birdie, and maybe even like The Break, are not for people like me to connect with. As a white person, I will forever be on the other side of the issues facing Indigenous people in Canada. But, I am very excited to read a story set in a familiar landscape – that of my own city.

*With information from http://www.goodreads.com and http://www.cbc.ca/books/canadareads

Posted by The Bluestocking Bookworm in Books, Reading, 0 comments

Canada Reads Shortlist: Nostalgia by M.G. Vassanji

Nostalgia by M.G. Vassanji
258 pages
Published: September 20th, 2016 by Doubleday Canada

M.G. Vassanj is a two-time Scotiabank Giller Prize winner.

About the Book: In the indeterminate future in an unnamed western city, physical impediments to immortality have been overcome. As society approaches the prospect of eternal life, a new problem must be confronted: with the threat of the brain’s storage capacity being overwhelmed, people want to move forward into the future free from redundant, unwanted and interfering memories. Rejuvenated bodies require rejuvenated identities–all traces of a person’s past are erased and new, complete fictions are implanted in their stead. On occasion, though, cracks emerge, and reminders of discarded lives seep through. Those afflicted suffer from Leaked Memory Syndrome, or Nostalgia, whereby thoughts from a previous existence burrow in the conscious mind threatening to pull sufferers into an internal abyss.
Doctor Frank Sina specializes in sealing these memory leaks. He is satisfied in his profession, more or less secure in the life he shares with his much younger lover, content with his own fiction–a happy childhood in the Yukon, an adulthood marked by the influence of a mathematician father and poet mother. But one day, Presley Smith arrives in Frank’s office. Persistent thoughts are torturing Presley, recurring images of another time and place. As he tries to save Presley from the onslaught of memory, Frank finds clues that suggest Presley’s past may be located in war-torn, nuclear-ravaged Maskinia, a territory located in the southern hemisphere, isolated from the north by fiercely guarded borders and policy barriers. Frank’s suspicions are only intensified when the Department of Internal Security takes an interest in Presley. They describe him as one of their own, meaning his new life was one they created for him, and they want him back. Who was Presley before the Department remade him, what secrets are buried in the memories that are encroaching upon him?
As Frank tries to save Presley from both internal and external threats, cracks emerge in his own fiction, and the thoughts that sneak through suggest a connection with the mysterious Presley that goes well beyond a doctor and his patient

About the Author: Moyez G. Vassanji was born in Kenya and raised in Tanzania. Before coming to Canada in 1978, he attended MIT and the University of Pennsylvania, where he specialized in theoretical nuclear physics. From 1978-1980 he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Atomic Energy of Canada, and from 1980 to 1989 he was a research associate at the University of Toronto. During this period he developed a keen interest in medieval Indian literature and history, co-founded and edited a literary magazine (The Toronto South Asian Review, later renamed The Toronto Review of Contemporary Writing Abroad), and began writing stories and a novel. In 1989, with the publication of his first novel, The Gunny Sack, he was invited to spend a season at the International Writing Program of the University of Iowa. That year ended his active career in nuclear physics. His contributions there he considers modest, in algebraic models and high spin states. The fact that he was never tenured he considers a blessing for it freed him to pursue his literary career.

Vassanji is the author of six novels and two collections of short stories. His work has appeared in various countries and several languages. His most recent novel, The Assassin’s Song, was short-listed for both the Giller Prize and the Governor-General’s Prize for best novel in Canada. It has appeared in the US (Knopf) and India (Penguin) and is scheduled to appear in the UK (Canongate).

His wife, Nurjehan, was born in Tanzania. They have two sons, Anil, and Kabir. He lives in Toronto, and visits Africa and India often.

About the defense – Jody Mitic: A 20-year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, Jody Mitic served as a master corporal and sniper team leader on three active tours of duty over the course of seven years. One day in 2007, while on a mission in a small Afghan village, he stepped on a landmine and lost both of his legs below the knees. Within three years he was not only walking again – he was running. By 2013, Mitic was starring in the blockbuster reality TV show The Amazing Race Canada. In 2014 he reinvented himself again, winning a seat as a city councillor for Ottawa.

Why Jody Mitic thinks Nostalgia is the book Canadians need now: Nostalgia is based in the future in a world that’s been divided into the haves and the have-nots. The haves have figured out a way to live forever, but they don’t want to bring their pasts with them. This book will show you that no matter how much you want to change who you are and change your reality, you can never leave your past behind you.

My initial thoughts: As a fan of dystopian and science fiction, Nostalgia seems right up my alley. I hadn’t heard of it before I became involved with blogging about Canada Reads, but I am definitely excited to read it.

*With information from http://www.goodreads.com and http://www.cbc.ca/books/canadareads

Posted by The Bluestocking Bookworm in Books, Reading, 0 comments

Canada Reads Shortlist: Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis

Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis
171 pages
Published: April 14, 2015 by Coach House Books

This book won the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize

About the Book: “I wonder”, said Hermes, “what it would be like if animals had human intelligence.”
” I’ll wager a year’s servitude, answered Apollo, that animals – any animal you like – would be even more unhappy than humans are, if they were given human intelligence.”

And so it begins: a bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a group of dogs overnighting at a Toronto vet­erinary clinic. Suddenly capable of more complex thought, the pack is torn between those who resist the new ways of thinking, preferring the old ‘dog’ ways, and those who embrace the change. The gods watch from above as the dogs venture into their newly unfamiliar world, as they become divided among themselves, as each struggles with new thoughts and feelings. Wily Benjy moves from home to home, Prince becomes a poet, and Majnoun forges a relationship with a kind couple that stops even the Fates in their tracks.

About the Author: André Alexis was born in Trinidad and grew up in Canada. His most recent novel, Fifteen Dogs, won the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. His debut novel, Childhood, won the Books in Canada First Novel Award, the Trillium Book Award, and was shortlisted for the Giller Prize and the Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. His other books include Pastoral (nominated for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize), Asylum, Beauty and Sadness, Ingrid & the Wolf, Despair and Other Stories of Ottawa and Lambton, Kent and Other Vistas: A Play.

About the defense – Humble the Poet: Kanwer Singh, a.k.a. Humble The Poet, is a Toronto-bred MC and spoken-word artist. He began releasing independently recorded tracks on YouTube in 2008, and since then has toured internationally with dynamic live sets that shake conventions and minds at the same time. #LEH and #IVIVI, his collaborations with YouTube star Lilly Singh, have collectively drawn over 15 million YouTube views to date. Humble The Poet has been featured in numerous publications including Buzzfeed, Rolling Stone, MTV, Huffington Post (Canada), The Times of India and WorldstarHipHop.

Why Humble the Poet thinks Fifteen Dogs is the book Canadians need now: If you read this book, immediately the Toronto Maple Leafs will win the Stanley Cup, and the Blue Jays will win the World Series, all at the same time. Fifteen Dogs is a really dope book – who doesn’t love dogs?! It explores the cool things, the interesting things and the painful things about what it means to be a human by giving those qualities to 15 different dogs. We learn about ourselves through these different animals.

My initial thoughts: As an animal lover and a big fan of anything related to the Greek gods (I am unashamed to admit I just finished reading Percy Jackson and the Olympians recently!) Fifteen Dogs is another one of the Canada Reads books I have had on my radar for a while. I am a little afraid to read it, too, because I like happy animal stories and I have a feeling this won’t be that. I am also a little confused, because this is a book from 2015, and I thought that the Canada Reads nominees had to be from the year previous.

*With information from http://www.goodreads.com and http://www.cbc.ca/books/canadareads

Posted by The Bluestocking Bookworm in Books, Reading, 0 comments
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