So the debates concluded yesterday and just before the live feed began, I said to my husband, “JB’s got this hands down. It’s going to take a miracle for Samantha Bee to take this one. If she’s able to convince someone on that panel that Cockroach is the most influential book here, the one that all of Canada has voted against over the past three days, then wow…you know she’s going to resort to tears.”
My predictions held on both accounts. Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda won, but in typical Canadian fashion, by only one vote. Samantha Bee’s voice cracked and she repeatedly scrunched up her face, but still her eyes remained dry and no actual tears caressed her cheeks, I’m sorry hun, staged emotion doesn’t always work to our advantage.
So, it’s over.
And that was pretty well my reaction…my first thought was, “Okay, so now what?” It was sad really that I wouldn’t be waking up the next day to tune in to hear more discussion about these books, there was this odd sense of loss. Even though the book I favored won, I wished it hadn’t so that we could have prolonged the event for just another day.
I listened to the Q&A session afterward and I think the best quote was from Donovan Bailey who said someone had asked him about the show he was doing and had said, (and I’m paraphrasing here) “You’re doing a reality show about reading?” and he’d replied, “Well, yes, I’m from Canada.” I laughed. I couldn’t help it.
Yes, only in Canada can we have a reality show where the hotly debated topic centers on the main theme of a book. Not to mention, only in Canada can this type of show garner such support, capture hearts and cause people to tune in forsaking all else….okay, not that bad, but I was totally into this show. I stopped short of hanging the book’s dust cover in my window to show which “team” I was on! I spread the word on facebook so that I could reach as many closet bibliophiles as I could in my friendship circles and have them tune in. For those three days my life had meaning and purpose….alright, alright, that’s pushing it a little, but do you get my drift here?
I got excited over a book competition. It was entertaining. I got as excited about this as I often do in the days leading up to the announcement of the Giller Prize each year. Yes, I know!
I did discover that one person in my little circle is actually less than six degrees connected to both Wab Kinew and Joseph Boyden – go figure! It’s a small world indeed. Alas, if you think about it, technically so am I – my brother did meet JB at a book signing and my nephew did met Wab Kinew at a school event. I’m sure there are many of us out there who can claim this exact same connection…and who, after this event, will indeed do so.
Wab’s best statement in his final debate today was, “We can’t change where we’ve been, but we’re damned if we don’t understand it.” I couldn’t help, as a person who favors social justice, who has spent years (passionately at times) advocating for the people she’s been in charge of, and who knows the value of a solid education, I could not help but have my heart swell with pride to hear those very words spoken in a nationally televised debate – over the content of a book! With those words he spoke to every Canadian, it wasn’t a political statement, it wasn’t a uniquely aboriginal statement, and it wasn’t a sling toward government, rather an appeal to a more basic foundation, a foundation upon which our humanity itself is nourished.
Now after the debate there were stirrings of “Wab Kinew for Prime Minister” and don’t get me wrong, although I found him to be extremely eloquent, diplomatic, educated, confident and however odd this sounds, softly stoic, these are all the qualities that would make him an unacceptable candidate for politics, no? I mean, what would it do to the heart of this man to have to lie, cheat and trample others in his path? I know we all have this idealized version of what we would like our politicians to be, but lets take this one step at a time, first let’s give some credence to our aboriginal people for once in their ability to thrive despite the politically (and otherwise) oppressive climate they have existed in since the formation of this country. Wab is just one voice amid a surging tide of educated, well spoken and respected leaders within our aboriginal communities. He is swiftly becoming the changing face of aboriginals within this country and stomping out the stereotypes on a more national scale. Just as there is the push to end the stigma within the realm of mental health here in this country, Wab and others like him are standing up and saying, “Look at me, this is why we have to end the stigma of being aboriginal.”
You can see in this man the face of say, a Barak Obama, but reality check, Barak has done his share of climbing in the political spheres, I’m sure we’d all be shocked to face the reality of his rise to power. In contrast if Wab stays true to his heart, he and others like him, can achieve at the grass-roots level, the eradication of negative thinking that has been ingrained in our society regarding our aboriginal populations, but not only that, if he (they) can also stir within others a connection to their greater humanity, then we will succeed in changing the face and direction of this country. We are the government and I think more and more each day, the people of this country are realizing their inherent power to effect change for bettering the future.
So a big thank you to Joseph Boyden for helping, by way of a novel of historical fiction, in opening a dialogue that, even if it’s only for a short time – because if history tells us anything, it will be shut down and silenced soon enough – that everyone in this country can actively participate in. Thank you for stimulating a further zest for the history of the formation of this country and thank you for, in some ways, uniting everyone in sharing in that view of our history.
Thank you to Canada Reads for allowing this discussion to occur and I hope, as many of you do, that this dialogue will not be silenced by the nay-sayers and we can finally allow our aboriginal people to take pride in who they are, shed their cloaks, step forward from the shadows, heads held high with just as much acceptance in society as the rest of us in this country.
It’s up to you Canada. Will you open your heart and mind or will you further stigmatize and be damned by your past?
(**This last question goes both ways, to rebuild a relationship, both parties must be open and willing to accept one another, if we understand that a marginalized voice will require vast amounts of compassion and patience, then we can work together to end the barriers that we ourselves created.**)
—-> Oh and if you’re still asking what’s the hype all about, go out and buy a copy of The Orenda by Joseph Boyden…or borrow it from a friend, or a library, if there is one book you should read, this is it. <—–